Look out Hulu, Jeff Bewkes has just upped the ante in the battle to own viewers' attention spans.
The Time Warner CEO said that the company is considering adding non-HBO content—and perhaps even content from its competitors—to its HBOGo property, making it a potential competitor to companies such as Hulu and Netflix.
Bewkes has long been a proponent of "TV Everywhere," giving pay TV subscribers access to that TV content anywhere, anytime. On the heels of Rupert Murdoch's abortive bid to buy the company, this quarter's earnings report and conference call were an opportunity for Bewkes to unveil an ambitious vision for unlocking potential across Time Warner's business, and particularly that crown jewel of HBO.
Throughout the earnings call Bewkes talked about the value of HBO and the potential to grow its reach both in the U.S. and abroad. He wasn't just talking about the linear channel. At the very end of the call he talked about HBOGo as a technology platform, saying "we're investing in top talent including a large team of software developers."
The big headline is that HBOGo could become a platform for accessing a broad range of streaming video content—an authentication platform for cable and satellite TV subscribers to log in. That could provide an alternative to the likes of Comcast's XFinity app, which allows subscribers to log in to access content. It could even compete with the likes of TV content aggregator Hulu, either its subscription service Hulu Plus or its free, ad-supported service.
"What we're doing there is trying to be best in class to have a platform that could not only deliver HBO networks but also Turner networks and frankly other networks. It doesn't have to be just the ones that we own," said Bewkes in response to a question on the earnings call.
"It's important for everybody in thinking about that to ask themselves, should offerings be delivered to consumers based just on what a company owns?" he asked.
"That's not how consumers program their dial, and I think one should always look at what consumers want to do and should keep in mind the range of products that consumers want. We think we can have that for our HBO Turner and Warner products, but we're anticipating that people will want more than that."
Bewkes discussed another way he could cash in on HBO's digital value, saying he's "not philosophically opposed" to partnering with a TV provider like the Dish Network, to offer its content as part of a lower-cost bundle to streaming subscribers. The idea, Bewkes says, is that a "lightweight" plan could "target new consumers, younger consumers who might not otherwise subscribe." He didn't commit to anything, saying "we just need to know that it would be additive and not subtractive," and that the details matter.
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin