Turner CEO: Our content business is becoming ‘mobile first’

Turner's John Martin. Image: Turner

BARCELONA, Spain—The CEO of Time Warner’s Turner said that his media company is taking a “mobile first” attitude.

“The mentality in our company has changed so quickly,” said John Martin, the chairman and CEO of Turner, the company that operates CNN, TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Turner Sports and other Time Warner Turner brands. Martin made his comments during a keynote presentation here at the Mobile World Congress trade show, an acknowledgement by show organizers that media companies like Turner are becoming increasingly important as wireless industry players increasingly invest in content offerings.

During his keynote appearance, Martin explained that a wide range of Turner’s brands are increasingly designing their offerings around the notion that viewers will consume video through their phones. He said the company’s Bleacher Report sports news service was built with a “mobile first” paradigm. And he said Turner’s CNN is “completely re-engineering their digital theory, and it’s all going to be mobile now.”

Importantly, he added that Turner’s college basketball games are witnessing 50 percent year-over-year growth in terms of the number of viewers who watch the content while mobile.

As a result, Martin said, “the mix and the revenues will absolutely have to change.”

Martin’s comments were largely echoed by Arnaud de Puyfontaine, the CEO of media giant Vivendi. During his separate keynote appearance, Puyfontaine explained that Vivendi is increasingly looking toward content partnerships with telecom operators; he too noted the growing importance of mobile as a video viewing platform.

Interestingly, Martin made a passing acknowledgement of AT&T’s proposed $85.4 billion bid to purchase Turner parent company Time Warner. The deal still requires federal approvals, but analysts increasingly believe the transaction will be consummated this year.

While some believe AT&T may use its purchase of Time Warner to stuff its own internet services with exclusive CNN or HBO content, Turner’s Martin said that likely won’t be the case. “It’s very unlikely that any of our content will be exclusive to the AT&T platform,” he said, explaining that AT&T would gain little by tethering its Time Warner properties to its own internet services since Turner’s business model is largely based on widespread distribution of its content.

Nonetheless, AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner underscores the growing bridge between the telecom and media industries. Indeed, also in the United States Verizon has signaled its own interest in the media industry through its Go90 mobile video service, which offers entertainment, sports and other content through a mobile-only app. Verizon too has worked to gain the rights to a range of content offerings; for example, the company owns the mobile rights to broadcast NFL football games.

Turner and Vivendi aren’t the only media companies making a showing here at the MWC trade show. Executives from other high-profile media outfits like Vice Media and Netflix are also attending the event.