Bewkes Offers Fuzzy Math, Irony on TWC Earnings Call

| About: Charter Communications, (CHTR)

It's not easy, in the current environment, for heads of media conglomerates to offer their investors good news -- but it's a little easier if you're willing to fudge the occasional fact.

That's what Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) CEO Jeff Bewkes did on this morning's third-quarter earnings call while extolling the dominance of People magazine.

"As competition has expanded, People has increased its market share," said Bewkes. "It increased circulation at a higher rate than any other celebrity-oriented magazine" in the first half of the year, he claimed.

Let's hope Time Inc.'s accountants are better at math that Bewkes. People was up 5.2 percent in newsstand sales and 1.7 percent in overall circulation in the first half of 2008, according to figures reported to the Audit Bureau of Circulations; OK, meanwhile, was up 19.4 percent on the newsstand and 11.8 percent overall (albeit off a much smaller base; still, OK's gains were larger on an absolute basis as well).

Other notable tidbits from the call:

-Bewkes said Time Warner expects to reap $150 million in annual savings from the recent reorganization at Time Inc., which will involve the elimination of some 600 jobs. Those savings won't happen until next year, though; first, there will be a restructuring charge of $100 million to $125 million.

Of the new structure, Bewkes said, "It will enable us to ensure we're concentrating our resources on our biggest and most prominent brands."

-Bewkes disputed an analyst's presumption that the ratings surge CNN has enjoyed as a consequence of the election will make it hard for the network to eke out revenue gains in 2009. "We don't necessarily see that [ratings growth] can't continue given the vibrancy of stories that are out there in the market," he said, citing the inauguration of a new president, the continuing instability of the economy and financial system and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "So we would not say if the premise of the question is that there would be such high comps from this year that it necessarily causes difficulty in continuing to grow next year." He also noted that the end of the election will mean substantially lower newsgathering costs for CNN.

-Was Bewkes being impish when he said "In the media business, we all know there's been a lot of value destroyed through poor acquisitions"? Why, whatever could you mean, Jeff?