CEO: Charter Communications 'Was A Mess'

Tom Rutledge COO - H 2011
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Tom Rutledge COO - H 2011

Tom Rutledge calls the cable operator, which he joined a year ago, "a diamond in the rough," while a DirecTV executive discusses the future of NFL Sunday Ticket.

Cable operator Charter Communications "was a mess" when he took over about a year ago, CEO Tom Rutledge told an investor conference on Wednesday.

"There is no other way to describe it," he said at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference in Florida when asked about the company's progress since emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and putting in place a new management team.

But he also called Charter "a diamond in the rough," adding: "It is in the rough, and we spent the last year trying to straighten it out" and setting it up for future growth.

Rutledge predicted higher financial growth rates, but did not provide guidance on when they would become apparent. He did emphasize though that his team has already started seeing higher triple-play service sales after new pricing and packaging of its video, telephony and broadband services.

Asked about the potential for interactive advertising, Rutledge said that Charter has been behind industry peers on that front. "But we will catch up with others over the next 24 months," he said.

The Charter boss acknowledged the tough competition in the pay TV and broadband sectors. For example, he said "I worry about what wireless broadband can do," but he also emphasized his confidence in the company's ability to compete.

Earlier in the conference day, DirecTV CFO Pat Doyle said the satellite TV firm expects to finish its evaluation of Vivendi-owned Brazilian broadband provider GVT, for which it has made a bid. Observers have also signaled that final bids would be due in the coming weeks. Doyle didn't comment further.

Asked about the future of DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket amid rising sports costs, he said that if the price tag went too high in the next rights deal negotiations, DirecTV would consider striking a non-exclusive deal with the NFL or possibly even dropping the popular package.

DirecTV's current NFL Sunday Ticket deal expires in 2015.


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