Dick Parsons spoke at Merrill Lynch's media conference in London and said he's "getting close" to handing over the reins. Who's his successor? He said deputy Jeff Bewkes is "the right man" to succeed him, though obviously that's up to the board of directors. Which is no surprise. So how soon is close? Well, his contract expires next year, so we can pretty much expect him to be gone by end of 2008.
But he's not throwing in the towel just yet, Parsons said his goal before he takes off is to make sure that AOL's stable and growing. Considering that he took Time Warner'stop job in the wake of the AOL merger/disaster (actually right after Gerry Levin got pushed out for engineering it), its no surprise Parsons wants to make FIXING AOL his legacy. It won't be long before Parsons can know if his Internet unit is on track-- it could be as early as December. So far, it looks like the transition away from a subscription model and to an ad supported one is working remarkably well.
Another big issue in play -- the company's potential divestiture of its Cable division. Wall Street is already evaluating the "stub" stock-- Time Warner Entertainment -- cutting out the Time Warner Cable division, waiting and wondering when the divestiture will happen. Parsons really touched all the bases-- he said that in about five years TWX could sever all its ties to Time Warner Cable, though nothing's definite.
And on digital distribution issues Parsons is forward thinking -- he's a fan of releasing Video-On-Demand the same day as DVD releases. There's been a debate in Hollywood over what they're calling "day-and-date" releases-- closing the window between the DVD release and putting the movie on video on demand. Obviously the brick and mortar retailers would rather have an exclusive on the release, but it makes more sense for the movie studios to maximize the marketing dollars from the theatrical release and ads for the DVD release. Parson said that in day-and-date trials some films have seen four to six times their normal buy rates on V-O-D, which is huge.
For news on all the changes at HBO-- the cable king losing one of the most popular shows on TV on Sunday-- tune into CNBC -- I'm on every other hour throughout the day!
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