“They have a glow about them,” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt told analysts this morning. But he sees the search company’s effort to expand its speedy fiber-optic broadband system to Austin — intensifying the competition with Time Warner Cable that began in Kansas City — as “no different” than other overbuilders that have failed to overtake cable operators. Execs say that there’s been a “de minimus” impact so far on Time Warner Cable. While Google Fiber is “very aggressive on price” its products are “essentially the same” as the cable company’s, Britt says. “The video’s the same and the speeds for the last part (of the broadband service) are faster but they connect to the same old Internet….I question the economics of this, and therefore their motivation.” He adds that Google has an “obvious public relations intent to depict the cable and phone industries as stuck with old technology.” But when it comes to business services, which need high Internet speeds more acutely than residential customers do, “we’re pulling tons of fiber.” Google’s “imagery painting is very effective, but not the reality.”
The Wall Street Journal says today that the No. 2 cable operator’s CEO will leave at year end, and Time Warner Cable doesn’t come close to trying to deny it. “Glenn is under contract and if and when he decides to step down, we’ll have an announcement,” the company says. Britt’s current contract, amended in 2011, expires at the end of the year according to Time Warner Cable’s most recent proxy statement. Britt’s compensation for 2011 came to $16.4M. That was about twice as much as the package for the second highest paid exec, COO Rob Marcus, who likely would replace Britt. The leak, attributed to “a person familiar with the matter,” comes just a day after Time Warner Cable disappointed investors with its higher-than-expected loss of video customers and uninspiring financial guidance for the rest of the year. Shares fell 11.6% yesterday.
Time Warner Cable‘s Glenn Britt took a tougher stance on this subject than I’ve heard in a while in his presentation this morning at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. “We’re going to take a hard look at each service and those services that cost too much relative to the viewership, we’re going to drop them,” he says. He adds that “if you have a network that has hashmark ratings and isn’t going anywhere, we’re going to have a different conversation” in 2013 than before. The problem, he says, is that many cable network owners “almost feel like it’s a birthright” for their channels to be included in the basic pay TV bundle. When the channels don’t perform, owners say “next year I’ll work harder and spend more money on programming and it’ll be good.” But Time Warner Cable, along with other pay TV distributors, can no longer pass those costs along to subscribers. With the economy “bouncing along the bottom,” Britt says, “the consumer is telling us that we can’t afford these prices anymore.” His company has been squeezed: Since 2008 his programming costs have risen 30% while his video prices have gone up 15%, exceeding the 10% rise in the Consumer Price Index. Network owners have an interest in maintaining the current system of bundling channels because “the entertainment business is one of the riskiest businesses on the planet.” If consumers were allowed to just pay for the channels they want, television’s business model would look “a lot more like Broadway theaters.”
Broadcasters received moral support this morning from cable in the looming battle against the new Auto Hop feature on Dish Network‘s Hopper DVRs, which enables the machines to automatically recognize and skip over ads on …
Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt may be the most prominent media exec making this important point: ”Our whole (entertainment) ecosystem should try to create affordability,” he told investors today at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference. “A lot of the people who are living paycheck to paycheck want our product, but simply can’t afford it. Many entertainment executives are in denial about this, but it’s happening.” Big Media ignores that fact at its peril: The vast majority of the industry’s profits come from cable networks — but the chief of the No. 2 cable company says that the pay TV business “is fundamentally not growing.” Programmers and networks have ignored that: “What they’re trying to do is grow by raising prices” on companies like Time Warner Cable, Britt says. That may work for a while, but “it clearly is not sustainable.” One of his strategies to deal with that is offering TV Essentials — a low-cost package of channels that doesn’t include costly sports services led by ESPN as well as popular networks such as TNT, Comedy Central, Fox News and MSNBC. “We’re clearly moving away from one size fits all,” Britt says.