Rob Marcus pitched a what-me-worry response to an analyst who asked him this morning about Time Warner Cable‘s inability to persuade other pay TV providers (aside from close ally Bright House) to carry SportsNet LA — which the Dodgers own and TWC distributes. “The good news is the product is great,” the CEO says. “We have a first place baseball team and the production quality is outstanding….There are a whole lot of customers at Time Warner Cable who are happy” while others are “moving to Time Warner Cable” to watch the Dodgers. TWC is said to want other distributors to pay $4 per month for each subscriber — including those who don’t watch sports. That would make SportsNet LA one of the country’s most expensive regional sports channels. TWC needs the high price to help it cover its $8.35B, 25-year commitment for the distribution rights.
Related: Time Warner Cable Q1 Earnings Beat Estimates
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Time Warner Cable shareholders will have an opportunity to register their opinions about the golden parachute terms outlined this morning in the preliminary proxy for the proposed $45.2B merger sale to Comcast. But the company can ignore the advisory vote about the terms that, if the deal goes through, could provide TWC chief Rob Marcus with a nearly $80M golden parachute that includes $20.5M in cash, $56.5M in equity, $400,000 in benefits, and $2.5M in a supplemental bonus. The document warns that the amounts reflect the values of the packages as of March 12 and, since stock prices could change, include totals “that may or may not actually occur.” But the amounts also could be higher: For example, the tally reflects a $958,909 target bonus for Marcus pro rated to assume he left on March 12. The exec, who rose to the top job in January, has an annual target of $5M. The proxy says that Marcus and other TWC execs likely can say that they have “good reason” to resign after the deal “and collect the above severance benefits.” The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act entitles shareholders to vote on an advisory basis on golden parachutes. The companies urge TWC stock owners to support the terms, but provide no rationale for doing so. They add that since the vote “will not be binding on either TWC or … Read More »
So far Time Warner Cable and closely allied Bright House Networks are the only pay TV distributors that have agreed to carry TWC’s new SportsNet LA which will feature the Dodgers. But TWC chief Rob Marcus says he isn’t worried: “Not surprisingly all of the action happens on the eve of opening day,” he told the Deutsche Bank Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference this morning. “It’s the typical game that occurs.” He assured investors, though, that TWC won’t have to shell out big bucks if others play by different rules. “Our license fee to the Dodgers is not driven by subscriber volume,” he says. The deal that TWC signed last year requires it to pay $8.5B over a 25 year period to offer the channel and handle distribution.
As you might expect, most of the questions Marcus fielded dealt with Comcast’s $45.2B plan to buy his company. He disputed the claim that the combination of the two largest cable companies would give Comcast too much leverage in negotiations with programmers. “I find that whole line to be ironic given the experience we’ve had over the last dozen years or so” — including the black eye TWC ended up with last year when it tangled with CBS in a carriage contract dispute. Some small cable operators worry that programmers that have to cut prices for Comcast will make up for … Read More »
I’m surprised that Time Warner Cable COO Rob Marcus — who becomes CEO at year-end — was surprised last week when Bloomberg reported from an interview with him that he’s willing to sell the No. 2 cable operator at the right price. The story was “frustrating” and used a “sexy headline” that misled readers and took him “out of context,” he said today at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. “Our management team is completely focusing on running Time Warner Cable for the long haul” and he sees “opportunities to generate great experiences for customers and a whole lot of value for shareholders.” So was Bloomberg wrong when it said that he’d sell at the right price to potential buyers such as Charter, Comcast, or Cox? Of course not. “My job as CEO is to maximize value for shareholders,” he says. Indeed he “is and always has been 100% driven by what’s in the interests of shareholders.” That would have to include a sale if the price is high enough. He also says that consolidation might bring benefits if it lowers content costs and expenses. Marcus for the most part reiterated company positions in response to other questions. He’d consider offering streaming video services such as Netflix on his company’s set-top boxes. “Overall we continue to view online video viewing as a positive for the broadband business” … Read More »
COO Rob Marcus — who’ll become CEO at year’s end — didn’t want to be specific. But he told investors at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference that the 32-day loss of CBS-owned stations and channels “depressed [new] connects and increased disconnects.” Time Warner Cable also had to increase spending on marketing “to get our message out there,” to buy antennas that it gave some customers for free, and for replacement programming. But Marcus says that “the issues that were at stake in this negotiation had such implications that we felt we had no choice….There was a fair amount of pain we had to endure.” Still, “we felt it was justified….We ended up in a better place than we started.” While he wouldn’t discuss the terms of the settlement, he says that — even with the CBS deal — the cable company expects to see its programming outlays increase this year about 9%, a tad lower than the 10% it had projected early this year. “That’s a shock,” analyst Jessica Reif Cohen said in response. Marcus added that the dispute helped to promote a debate over whether lawmakers should change the rules of engagement between programmers and distributors to avoid blackouts. “It’s starting the dialogue…The existing legislation doesn’t work.”
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There’s no particular deadline for CBS to respond to Time Warner Cable’s offer to carry the network-owned stations on an a la carte basis, says Rob Marcus — who will become TWC’s CEO at year end. But he hints, in an interview on Bloomberg Television, that TWC is prepared for a long fight over program carriage terms. He wouldn’t predict, as Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan did, that video may be expendable for cable companies as they concentrate on broadband. Still, Marcus concedes, programmers and operators have “a difficult dynamic.”
Don’t know if I’m reading too much into this. But I found it interesting that COO Rob Marcus — who’ll become CEO at year end — was open to the possibility of advocating a la carte cable pricing in his response to a question in Time Warner Cable‘s Q2 analyst call today. The issue came up as analysts probed for insight into where retransmission consent fights, including the current one with CBS, might lead. Marcus says he favors “more choice” for consumers and added: “Whether that involves one-on-one choice of networks remains to be seen.” The possibility that federal lawmakers or regulators might mandate a la carte is “a separate question.” Execs pretty much stuck to the script that they’re resisting CBS’ efforts to secure a big price increase for its stations and cable channels so consumers, as Marcus put it, “can pay reasonable prices.” CEO Glenn Britt took a back seat in the call, in part because his voice was hoarse — leading one wag to ask whether it was from yelling at CBS chief Les Moonves. “I knew somebody was going to ask that,” Britt said. Execs also tip-toed around questions involving the efforts by Charter Communications and its largest shareholder, Liberty Media’s John Malone, to craft a bid for TWC. Britt says the interest is “an endorsement of our assets.” And Marcus said that whether TWC … Read More »
It’s stange that a former corporate cousin of HBO — Time Warner Cable — remains the biggest pay TV company that still doesn’t offer subscribers the opportunity to access the HBO Go digital streaming service. But that will change “soon,” Time Warner Cable COO Robert Marcus tells Bloomberg. Marcus declined to say what’s holding things up — and we’ve been hearing for months that a deal was just around the corner. Still, if Marcus’ prediction is correct, then it means the HBO customers among TWC’s 12.1M subscribers will be able to watch shows such as Boardwalk Empire, Hung, Bored To Death, and Real Time With Bill Maher on demand from Web-connected devices including tablets and mobile phones. It’s important to HBO because TWC serves two of its biggest markets, Manhattan and Los Angeles. TWC and Cablevision are the only major cable, satellite, and telco video providers that still don’t offer HBO Go.
Time Warner Cable plans one of the most ambitious efforts yet to combat the rising cost of sports channels: It’s preparing to introduce a low-cost service tier that won’t include expensive networks such as ESPN. Time Warner Cable has said that it’s exploring the “TV Essentials” package that would cost between $30-$40 a month. President Rob Marcus says it will be introduced within weeks in the company’s East Coast systems. Marcus told the Goldman Sachs Communicopia Conference that the initiative has been tested for almost a year in two systems and is designed to keep subscribers who are considering cutting the cable TV cord “partly due to affordability.”