NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Time Warner (TWX) CEO Jeff Bewkes must drive his handlers crazy. Unlike many overpaid media executives, Bewkes will actually let on when something isn't quite right at his employer, Time Warner, the world's second-largest entertainment company.
The topic on Wednesday's conference call with investors (Wall Street analysts are allowed to ask questions on the call; reporters are to speak only when spoken to, which is never) was TruTV and TNT, both of which Bewkes said need to skew younger. They need "edgier programming," he said repeatedly.
Though first-quarter revenue at Turner Broadcasting, the unit that includes TNT along with TBS, CNN and HBO, grew 5% in the quarter, ratings at TNT have been sluggish. Bewkes was quick to acknowledge this reality, exclaiming that "we can and will do better."
Indeed, TNT ratings among the critical 18 to 49-year-old demographic dropped 18% in March compared to the same period in 2013, according to Nielsen. More generally, viewing of Time Warner's cable-TV programming was down by 13%. Conversely, Disney (DIS) reported an 8% gain for the same period while 21st Century Fox's (FOXA) cable-TV networks were little changed.
TNT's focus, the Time Warner CEO said, has largely been on a somewhat older audience. That strategy, he said, has been working for many years. TNT was Time Warner's "broadcast network replacement," Bewkes stated, a network for talks accustomed to mainstream programming. Shows such as The Closer starring Kyra Sedgwick, did quite well for TNT.