Turner CEO: AT&T-Time Warner deal can’t close soon enough

From left to right: Matthew Garrahan, Financial Times; John Martin, Turner; and Randy Freer, Hulu. (Ben Munson)

LAS VEGAS—A late-afternoon CES keynote conversation featuring Turner CEO John Martin and Hulu CEO Randy Freer quickly turned to elephant-in-the-room deals between AT&T-Time Warner and Disney-Fox.

Martin said that, at this point, everybody just wants a little clarity and that “Our view at Turner is, ‘This can’t close fast enough.’” But he remained optimistic that the deal will close and, though frustrated with the process, he said he appreciated that proper regulatory vetting is an important part of any merger.

AT&T and Time Warner recently again extended the merger deadline, this time out to June 21, 2018. That move came as the company prepares to go to court with the U.S. Justice Department, with a trial date set for March 19, 2018.

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In terms of the potential impact of the Disney-Fox deal, which would turn Disney into a majority owner of Hulu, Freer said that it’s still business as usual for Hulu.

When asked if international expansion was part of the business for Hulu, Freer said that throughout Hulu’s existence it functions as a defense—against YouTube, Netflix and eventually pay-TV erosion. But now Hulu is breaking out—it just announced it has 17 million U.S. subscribers and a handful of prestigious awards—so Hulu is now very focused on marketing and adding subscribers, Freer said.

But Freer didn’t rule out international expansion for Hulu and said that the Disney-Fox deal could greatly help with that.

“We’re going to look at what our business looks like internationally,” Freer said. “One of the best things that comes out of this merger is the international footprint.” He said that Hulu will evaluate over the next few months and decide how it’s going to attack international markets.