CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Former Time Warner Chairman & CEO Gerald Levin on CNBC's "Closing Bell"
WHEN: TODAY, THURSDAY, February 13, 2014
WHERE: CNBC'S "CLOSING BELL"
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Former Time Warner Chairman & CEO Gerald Levin today on CNBC's "Closing Bell." All references must be sourced to CNBC.
KELLY EVANS: NOW, WITH EXCLUSIVE REACTION TO THE MEGA COMCAST/TIME WARNER DEAL, WE'RE JOINED ON THE PHONE BY THE FORMER CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF TIME WARNER, GERALD LEVIN. GREAT TO HAVE YOU CALLING IN, SIR. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS DEAL?
LEVIN: I THINK IT'S GREAT, KELLY. I'M VERY EXCITED. NOT JUST BECAUSE IT'S A LARGE TRANSACTION IN THE MEDIA BUSINESS, BUT HISTORICALLY, BIG CABLE AND THE LEADING CABLE OPERATOR HAS BEEN THE SOURCE OF INNOVATION, CREATIVITY, PARTICULARLY ON THE TECHNICAL SIDE. THAT'S WHAT I SEE COMING HERE. YOU LOOK BACK AT THE OLD AT&T MOVING INTO TIME WARNER CABLE, THE OLD PCI, AT&T MOVING INTO COMCAST. MOST OF THE DIGITAL INNOVATIONS THAT HAVE LED TO MEDIA PLATFORM HAVE COME FROM THE CABLE INDUSTRY.
BILL GRIFFETH: GERRY, GOOD TO TALK TO YOU. BILL GRIFFITH HERE. WE SHOULD POINT OUT YOU'RE ON A CELL PHONE IN AN AREA WHERE THE STORM IS HEADED.THE CELL SERVICE MIGHT NOT BE WHAT WE HOPE FOR AUDIO WISE, BUT WE DO APPRECIATE YOUR TIME HERE. YOU OFTEN SAY REGULATORS APPLY WEIRD RULES OR YOU DISAGREE WITH THEIR RULES, THEIR SILLY RULES. WHAT DO YOU TALK ABOUT WHEN THEY'RE TRYING TO APPLY RULES TO A DEAL THIS SIZE?
LEVIN: WELL, WHAT HAPPENS, BILL, IF YOU LOOK AT THE REGULATORY PROCESS, USUALLY THE REGULATORS ARE EITHER TOO EARLY OR TOO LATE, OR THEY'RE GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION AND THEY FEEL COMPELLED TO – CONDITIONS THAT WILL PROBABLY RUN INTO THE WALL OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. YOU LOOK AT THE ENVIRONMENT TODAY, AND YOU DON'T JUST HAVE, YOU KNOW, VIOS, AT&T AND DIRECTV AND DISH AND NETFLIX. YOU HAVE SUBSTANTIAL CONTENT COMPANIES IN THE FORM OF CBS AND TIME WARNER SOME OF MY OLD COLLEAGUES SO YOU HAVE A FAIRLY BIG MARKET. SO I WOULD STEP BACK AND SAY IF YOU REALLY WANT TO DEFINE WHAT THIS MARKET SHOULD BE, IT SHOULD BE A GLOBAL MARKETPLACE BECAUSE WHAT WE'RE LOOKING FOR IS INNOVATION IN THE MARKET FOR TECHNICAL SUPREMACY, AND THESE DIGITAL NETWORKS PROVIDE CURRENT ACTIVITY AND CONTENT. YOU KNOW IT'S REALLY A WORLD MARKET. SO ANYTHING THAT HAS A NATIONAL OBJECTIVE, IT SHOULD BE DONE. I'M SURE YOU'LL GET A LOT OF WAILING FROM VARIED CORNERS SAYING THIS IS A GATEKEEPER WITH UNPRECEDENTED POWER. IT'S NOT TRUE. NO ONE HAS UNPRECEDENTED POWER. LOOK WHAT HAPPENED MORE RECENTLY IN THE COMPETITION OVER LEAD TRANSMISSION CONSENT…
EVANS: SO YOUR POINT, MR. LEVIN, IS THAT THIS WILL ALLOW FOR MORE INNOVATION, MORE INVESTMENT, AND I JUST WONDER, AGAIN, GOING BACK TO THE CONSOLIDATION THAT OCCURRED, OF COURSE, UNDER YOUR DECADE AT THE HELM OF TIME WARNER, YOU KNOW, THE IDEA WAS THAT THE FUTURE WILL BELONG TO MEDIA COMPANIES THAT HAVE BOTH CONTENT AND DISTRIBUTION. DO YOU SEE THIS AS A VALIDATION OF THAT MODEL IN A WAY THAT OBVIOUSLY THE AOL DEAL AT THE TIME WAS NOT?
LEVIN: KELLY, I DON'T NECESSARILY SEE IT AS A VALIDATION BECAUSE COMCAST, YOUR PARENT, WAS ALREADY IN THE MOVIE BUSINESS, THE NETWORK BUSINESS AND THE CABLE BUSINESS. THE WAY I SEE IT, BRIAN ROBERTS IS A CABLE GUY. THAT'S WHAT THIS IS ABOUT. THIS IS ABOUT A BELIEF IN THE CABLE BUSINESS….IT'S ABOUT INNOVATING AND TECHNOLOGY THAT'S WHAT I THINK THIS PLAY IS ABOUT. IT'S NOT NECESSARILY YOU HAVE TO HAVE DISTRIBUTION. FRANKLY, I WOULD SAY THAT'S PROBABLY NOT A BAD IDEA.
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