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Time Warner CEO: Net regulations unfairly favor Google and Facebook

  • Time Warner CEO says regulations on Facebook and Google "are much more lax" than those on cable and telecom companies
  • Time Warner has agreed to be acquired by AT&T for $85 billion in a deal Bewkes called "good for America."
  • "We're increasingly competing with West Coast global businesses that want to get in the video business," he told a gathering of tech execs.

Jeffrey 'Jeff' Bewkes, chairman and chief executive officer of Time Warner Inc.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Jeffrey 'Jeff' Bewkes, chairman and chief executive officer of Time Warner Inc.

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said Wednesday that existing U.S. regulations covering internet content unfairly favor Facebook and Google and that his company agreed to be acquired by AT&T to better compete with those technology giants.

"You have the FCC putting regulations on cable and telco companies, you have the FTC putting regulations on Facebook that are much more lax. I'd like to see it be even," Bewkes said in response to a question about so-called Net Neutrality rules during an onstage interview at the Code Conference in Ranch Palos Verdes, California.

Time Warner last year agreed to be acquired by AT&T for $85 billion in a deal that will provide the wireless giant with a stable of news and entertainment content while giving Time Warner new ways of distributing its shows.

AT&T will also get valuable data on its end users, which Bewkes says it needs to better compete for advertising dollars amid stiffer competition from the tech industry.

"We're increasingly competing with West Coast global businesses that want to get in the video business," Bewkes told the gathering of tech executives.

Google's YouTube unit now hosts one billion hours of video viewing per day, CEO Sundar Pichai told Wall Street analysts in April, during a conference call to discuss the first-quarter earnings of its parent company, Alphabet.

Facebook is also making a bigger push into video and is reportedly getting ready to roll out its own original shows sometime in June.

Those two Silicon Valley giants accounted for 85 percent of the growth in digital advertising spending last year, according to an annual report on the Internet presented at the conference earlier Wednesday from Mary Meeker, a partner with venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.

To garner a bigger chunk of that growth, Time Warner needs better data on those who watch its networks, including CNN, HBO, Showtime and Comedy Central.

"We're trying to get more data, to compete more effectively with a much bigger set of data that the digital companies have," Bewkes said.

The mega-merger, which Bewkes said is "good for America," is expected to close this year after FCC Chair Ajit Pai said in February the agency doesn't expect to review it.

Cable and telecom companies, including AT&T, have in the past argued against the net neutrality rules enacted two years ago under former FCC chair Tom Wheeler, saying that they unfairly favor firms that use lots of network traffic.

Those rules prevent internet service providers from favoring or discriminating against network traffic from any particular provider, such as Google, Facebook or Netflix. Industry watchers widely expect those rules to be undone by the FCC, which now has a Republican majority.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox Media. Recode and NBC have a content-sharing arrangement.