Time Warner Cable COO Talks Apple, Google, LA Lakers

Time Warner Cable Logo - H 2012

Time Warner Cable Logo - H 2012

Rob Marcus tells the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference that competition remains "pretty tough" and that the cable giant is "hard at work" at a cloud-based TV guide experience.

Time Warner Cable is "hard at work at a cloud-based [TV] guide experience" and is open to giving up control of the user interface as it looks to make its service accessible via new devices, including Apple's iPhones and iPads, president and COO Rob Marcus told an investor conference in New York on Wednesday.

But he emphasized that this does not mean that the cable giant is willing "to give up the customer relationship" as the company is committed to ensuring that people know its TV services are provided by TW Cable and not any device maker or other third party.

Deal details will depend on the partner and circumstances though, he told the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York in a session that was webcast.  "In some of those cases that may mean giving up control of the interface," Marcus said without mentioning Apple by name. "It really is all about maximizing the capabilities…to give Time Warner Cable customers the best possible experience.

Marcus' comments came after recent comments that TW Cable has held talks with Apple about possible agreements that would lead Apple to provide or control the cable firm's user interface. Apple has in recent years tried to push into the living room and become a key player in the TV space just like it has been in music. Some observers have wondered if a possible Apple deal could lead the tech giant to take a powerful role that could erode the cable firm's relationship with subscribers.

Marcus on Wednesday also told the Goldman conference that the competitive landscape in the pay TV sector "remains pretty tough." And the economy and housing market "remain weak," meaning he has no immediate expectations for a return of basic video subscriber growth, he added.

He also was asked about his take on Google's planned video service offer in Kansas, which will compete with TW Cable. Marcus said his company has roughly 100,000 video subscribers in the market Google is pushing into. Including broadband users, Google will be in an area covering "less than 1 percent of our total customer base," he said.

Still, "we take all competitors seriously," he said. "it's already a hyper-competitive market...We have been competing aggressively in that market and will continue to compete aggressively with Google. I think we are ready for the additional competition." 

The TW Cable executive also touted the upcoming launch of the company's new sports network in LA with LA Lakers games in about two weeks. With expectations at a "fever pitch," he said "we feel pretty confident that we have a good deal here." Sports rights fees minus the carriage fee and advertising revenue should get the company to a financial model that is stronger than "the amount we would have paid for a third-party network," Marcus said. If not, TW Cable will still an advantage over other TV distributors, he argued.

Asked about his appetite for acquisitions, Marcus said the firm does "not really feel compelled to get bigger," vowing to continue a disciplined deal strategy.
It would be "somewhat interesting" to buy more cable systems if they come at attractive prices and financial returns, he said though.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai