Time Warner Cable CEO Calls Netflix Streaming Content Offer 'Fairly Thin'

Says company still can't find "meaningful evidence of cord cutting"


NEW YORK -- Time Warner Cable still "can't find any meaningful evidence of cord cutting...other than in very, very small numbers," chairman, president and CEO Glenn Britt told an investor gathering here Monday.

And he argued that Netflix's online streaming service and other Web offers are more of a supplement to pay TV service than a substitute given that their content is "fairly thin" and "not that great."

Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, he also referred to a new ESPN study that found cord cutting, or consumers' abandonment of pay TV services, to be a minor phenomenon. Related: ESPN Study Finds Cord Cutting Is a "Very Minor" Phenomenon

While online competitors offer content for free or at lower prices, "the content is not that great," Britt said. And given that Americans tend to watch seven to eight hours of TV a day, "you're not going to rely totally on online," he suggested. "That's not how the American public watches TV."

Asked specifically about Netflix, Britt said "we're certainly paying attention to them," but argued its Web content is "fairly thin." His friends use the firm's streaming service mainly to watch old movies, he said.

The advantages of Web-based services is though that they often have a better interface than TV set-top-boxes, which TW Cable is looking to fix, Britt acknowledged. "We'll have interfaces as good as what we see from online providers," he promised.

Plus, he said TW Cable plans to make its pay TV content available on all devices, including Apple's iPad to make sure to reach consumers any place, any time and on any device.

Asked about the company's recently announced TV Essentials budget-priced video package targeting financially strained customers, Britt said it is unlikely to attract too many users and raise concerns with content partners. Most will continue to want to pay more for broader channels portfolio, he argued.

He also said recent program deals gave TW Cable the rights to put together such a low-priced offer with a very limited number of channels.

Will the cable industry have to move to give consumers complete choice to select channels they want? "I don't think people really want a la carte," Britt said, also calling it"not practical." But people like to know they have some choice, which means the whole industry will have to offer a broader lineup of pay TV packages.

After all, content companies and distributors must give consumers what they want"without injuring the content business," he argued.

Britt also suggested that reforms of the current retransmission consent rules, which have led to various programming disputes between broadcasters and distributors this year, are unlikely to be imminent given that the country is facing bigger issues.

Most likely any reform would come as part of a broader telecom rules rewrite that tends to happen every 15 years or so, he said.