Charter CEO Tom Rutledge Promises More Jobs, Fewer Home Visits

AP Photo/Richard Drew
Charter CEO Tom Rutledge

Charter has hired a net 7,000 people in the past three years, and will need an additional 20,000 following the merger of TWC and acquisition of Bright House, Rutledge said.

Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge acknowledged Wednesday that nobody likes the cable guy, but his company is doing something about that — and is one of many reasons that its pending $55 billion merger with Time Warner Cable and $10.4 billion acquisition of Bright House Networks ought to be approved.

Other reasons regulators should approve the transactions is that they'll lead to technological advancements and more jobs, Rutledge said at the Guggenheim TMT Symposium in New York.

Charter has hired a net 7,000 people in the past three years, and will need an additional 20,000 following the merger of TWC and acquisition of Bright House, Rutledge said.

"We really believe service is a key element to the business," Rutledge said. "Quality can save you money, so we are believers in hiring people to work for us and not sending calls offshore — hiring actual employees and training and investing in them as opposed to contractors."

Rutledge said he can keep customers longer through "quality and craftsmanship" and, therefore, lower expenses. Part of the strategy is investing in cloud technology, which reduces the need for cable employees to visit homes.

"The inherent problem in all of cable — and it always has been — is you have [to] schedule a job with a person who doesn't really want you to come to their house, and you have to do work of an indeterminate length of time to get to the next job on time," Rutledge said. "And all businesses that do it, plumbers, contractors, everybody can't stand them ... The more you can take that out of the business, the higher the satisfaction goes."

Charter has developed a cloud-based user interface that is backward compatible to all the set-top boxes it has deployed, Rutledge said, insinuating that Charter's system is an improvement over that of TWC and Bright House, so a merger and acquisition is in the best interest of consumers.

"We can do state of the art without a physical transaction," Rutledge said. "We want to put advanced user interfaces in all of our customers' homes, and not just in their homes, but on every outlet that they have a TV connected to and every device that they have that they could watch video on."

Rutledge noted that even after the transactions close, Charter would be merely the third largest provider of television in the industry, behind a combined AT&T-DirecTV and Comcast. He added that, so far, he is "pleased with the response" of the public interest groups that were so hostile to the now-defunct proposal that Comcast would merge with TWC.

Rutledge also praised the notion of net neutrality but also acknowledged he worried about "regulatory creep" if the FCC and lawmakers were to get overly aggressive in their pursuit of that goal.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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