Time Warner Inc.'s dramas usually take place on its TV series, rather than its earnings calls. But not Wednesday.
John Martin, chief executive officer of Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting division, struck back after Dish Network Corp. chairman Charlie Ergen threatened to permanently drop Turner's cable networks and said CNN was "not quite the product that they used to be."
"Ordinarily, we wouldn't be in the practice of commenting publicly as it relates to what's a private business dispute," Martin said on Time Warner's earnings call Wednesday. However, Ergen's comments about the contract dispute during Dish's earnings call Tuesday were "very antagonistic and aggressive," Martin said.
He said Turner was working hard to get a deal done after many of its TV channels went dark. Not reaching an agreement with Dish would likely reduce Time Warner's 2014 profit to the lower end of its forecast, the company said Wednesday.
Dish blacked out some of Turner's channels in a contract dispute that began last month. Ergen said yesterday that Turner was asking for double-digit percentage increases in fees for CNN while viewership has been down by half. He said the trend of rising programing costs would continue even as pay-TV faced competition from Web viewing.
Ergen made it clear that he was prepared for even TBS and TNT to go dark - a contract that Time Warner said was up for renewal soon.
"When we take something down, we're prepared as a company to leave it down forever," Ergen said Tuesday.
"I think it's fair to say that we disagreed with virtually everything he said as it related to the importance of our product as it related to his platform," Martin said Wednesday, referring to Ergen. "We honestly have no idea what Dish was talking about."