Time Warner Cable is largely through with “Phase 1” in its acquisition and turnaround of cable systems in Dallas and Los Angeles, TWC President and CEO Glenn Britt said.
The two systems, which had shed basic subscribers and dragged on the company’s 2007 financial performance, should turn around in 2008 as the company changes out infrastructure, rolls out new services and rehabilitates the reputation of cable in those areas, he said.
Speaking at the UBS Global Media Week and Communications Conference in New York, Britt said that in Dallas, whose dual-cable infrastructure was too ancient to amass enough bandwidth, the company has nearly completed a rebuild to a 1 GHz system—a notch above the typical capacity of 750 MHz.
“If you’re going to rebuild a plant, you might as well build it to one gig, because it’s not much more expensive,” Britt said.
That was the first phase. Next, the company is introducing new products to the long-suffering customers, such as voice and “triple-play” services as well as fresh video offerings. Phase 3, said Britt, is rebuilding the cable system’s reputation.
In Los Angeles, TWC had to integrate legacy Comcast and Adelphia systems with its own. That meant disruption to consumers such as changed e-mail addresses and changes to the 100-some different channel lineups across the market.
“But we’re sort of through all that now,” Britt said.
Regarding competition with satellite and the race to HD leadership, Britt said that with the rollout out to switched digital video
, TWC will have “unlimited” HD offerings, restricted only by the availability of programming.
TWC also touted its time-shifting “Enhanced TV” technologies designed to give digital cable viewers more control over the schedule, with features such as Startover (which allows viewers to rewind to the start of some already running programs), Lookback (with access to the last day’s programs) and Catchup (allowing viewers to catch up on missed episodes of a program.) These technologies rely on programmers participating by enabling their programs for the features; TWC can even insert ads in a “Catchup” presentation that are different than the ads that ran on the program originally.
Britt also addressed the recent question of the NFL Network—the league-owned enterprise carrying eight games this season—that seeks carriage on cable systems beyond the unpopular sports tiers. NFL Network drummed up enthusiasm for its games—particularly the Nov. 29 Cowboys-Packers matchup—in an apparent attempt to get viewers to demand it from their cable operators.
“So far we are seeing very little consumer reaction to not having it,” Britt said. “It’s really about eight games and what we’ll pay for it.”
Britt suggested that maybe the biggest football fans had already left cable for DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket.