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Time Warner Says It's Ready to Start the Great Netflix Pullback

Wall Street doesn't care, though.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Yes, they’re going to try to stuff the genie back in the bottle.

Earlier this week, we told you that TV programmers were reconsidering their strategy of selling their reruns to Netflix and other digital video services. Today, Time Warner made it clear that it’s headed in that direction.

“We are evaluating whether to retain our rights for a longer period of time and forego or delay certain content licensing. This would effectively push the [subscription video] window for content on our networks to a multiyear period more consistent with traditional syndication,” CEO Jeff Bewkes told his investors during his earnings call today.

Translation: We’re going to make it harder to find our best stuff on digital outlets like Netflix and Amazon, because we don’t want to give our viewers a reason to watch it there instead of on our own networks.

There’s plenty of wiggle room there, so don’t expect Time Warner to cut off the digital guys entirely. And the deals they’ve already signed run for several years, so nothing is going to happen overnight, anyway. But it’s the clearest sign yet that TV guys are willing to give up some licensing money in the short term to try to build, or at least maintain, their core business.

All of which may be moot. Time Warner’s profit guidance for 2016 came in lower than investors expected, and the company also said that it was continuing to see pay TV subscriber numbers shrink; Wall Street took this as a signal to reenact its TV stock selloff from this summer. Time Warner shares are down 8 percent, and most of its peers are down as well.

Netflix stock is up.

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