By Jennifer Harman

With all his merchandise, his movies, his comic books and his television cameos, the character Superman is essentially a cash cow. Partially owned by DC Comics, which is owned by Warner Bros., which, in turn, is owned by Time Warner, Superman is just a drop in the bucket. Time Warner, for those who’ve never heard of it, is the largest media corporation in the world. As part of the “big six,” the multi-billion dollar corporation competes directly with the other five large media corporations, which include Disney and Viacom. If you want to get a better grasp of who-owns-what characters, check out this nifty link, (thanks to Food Stamp for pointing me to it).

Time Warner is a complicated business. Although the company deals in media and electronic entertainment, it’s still incredibly diversified. Time Warner owns HBO, Turner Broadcasting System, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Time Inc., Time Warner Investment Group and Time Warner Global Media Group, all of which have their own subsidiaries.

A sampling of what this corporation controls.

Because nothing is ever simple with large corporations, Time Warner does NOT own Time Warner Cable. Although originally controlled by Time Warner, Time Warner Cable spun out in 2009 and is now its own company.  The split, as the company’s site claims, was to help Time Warner “become a more streamlined portfolio of businesses focused on creating, packaging and distributing branded content,” to give both companies greater flexibility in decision making processes and grant investors greater choices when they’re deciding whether to invest in the companies’ stock. It probably helped that Time Warner Cable paid more than 10 dollars a share for the split, netting Time Warner $9.25 billion. That’s right. $9.25 billion is what it costs to divorce from that large of a company.

(Going off on a tanget here– I was rather peeved by the amount of effort it took to research Time Warner, simply because “Time Warner Cable” seems to be more frequently in the news. Apparently, neither company saw benefit in a name change. I disagree.)

Time Warner is a big fan of these spin-outs, as it also did the same thing with AOL in 2009. With so much back-and-forth in terms of owning and then not owning a company, it’s a wonder that Time Warner is also able to keep up with its plethora of media commodities and intellectual property.

Take Happy Birthday, which is owned by one of Time Warner’s subsidiaries, Warner Chappell. Singing this simple little ditty for commercial purposes can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 in royalties. These royalties net the company almost $2 million a year and not even the Girl Scouts are immune to these charges. This, mind you, is for a song that a school child might have written, and that Time Warner certainly didn’t. The rule of corporate personhood gives Time Warner the rights to drag your butt to court for ignoring their ownership and copyright rules.

If corporations are human, (an idea I find appalling) then I’d like to argue that Time Warner’s a little more than that. With all the strength and influence this company wields, it’s its own terrifying Superman.

Time Warner (Stakeholder Letter)

New York Times



ABC News

Food Stamp

Myths and Legends/owners

Happy Birthday

New York Times

Time Warner

Time Warner Cable


 Columbia Journalism Review