Time Warner CFO John Martin to succeed Phil Kent as Turner CEO

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 July, 2013, 5:40am

Time Warner is appointing a new chief at Turner Broadcasting to replace long-time executive Phil Kent, who steps down next year, the latest changes to hit the unit that oversees cable networks CNN, TBS and TNT.

The executive shuffle, announced on Wednesday, will see Time Warner's current finance chief John Martin, 46, take over as Turner's chief executive when Kent steps down.

I've told Jeff [Bewkes, Time Warner CEO] ... [he has] my full support
Phil Kent, Turner Chief Executive

Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner's chief executive, tapped Jeff Zucker, the former chief executive of NBCUniversal in November to be the new chief of the news channel and orchestrate a turnaround in the network which was struggling in ratings and losing out to Fox News and MSNBC.

Even though CNN is trying to make a comeback, Morningstar analyst Michael Corty said that the Turner unit was in a better position than it was a few years ago, with stronger ratings, better original programming and syndicated shows. Time Warner acquired Turner Broadcasting in 1996.

Gabelli & Co estimates Turner generated US$9.5 billion in revenue for Time Warner last year. HBO, which is under separate leadership made Time Warner US$4.5 billion in revenue in the period, according to Gabelli & Co analyst Brett Harriss.

Under Kent, comedy channel TBS lured Conan O'Brien from broadcast television, struck a syndication deal for CBS' The Big Bang Theory, which became one of the top-rated shows on cable, and secured valuable NCAA and NBA basketball rights.

Advertising at the unit was down 1 per cent in the first quarter, which surprised Wall Street analysts. The company said second-quarter ad revenue at its networks will be up in the high single digits in percentage terms.

Bewkes said in a statement that the move came at Kent's "initiation" and that now was the "right time to announce the next generation of leadership".

Kent said that he had many conversations with Bewkes and decided not to renew his contract when it ends next year.

"I've told Jeff (Bewkes) and John Martin that they have my full and enthusiastic support, and that I'll do whatever I can to assist when John assumes the title of CEO next January, and I remain chairman," Kent said.

Time Warner could be grooming finance chief John Martin to be a potential chief executive with the role at Turner, analysts said.