Time Warner Cable CFO: Pay TV Bill Costs Consumers Only 30 Cents Per TV Hour

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Irene Esteves talks about cord cutting, potential competition from Google and usage-based broadband pricing.

NEW YORK - Time Warner Cable CFO Irene Esteves on Tuesday told a media investor conference that the cable giant continues to feel good about its business.

Asked at a Deutsche Bank media and telecom conference about potential cord cutting, she said "we're really not seeing it." Online content availability is a complement rather than a substitution for pay TV service, she argued.

Esteves said that she has often heard the question if cable is near the end since she joined TWC, but she highlighted the great entertainment value it provides. With an average pay TV bill of $75 a month for about 250 hours of TV viewing on average, the cost of pay TV amounts to only 30 cents an hour, she said. 

Even if more video goes online in the future, it benefits cable operators' broadband services, meaning "we have a hedge for that," Esteves told the conference.

Asked about potential new competitors, she highlighted that TWC has around 300 programming agreements. "To replicate that would take a lot," she said, and content partners benefit from the current TV eco system just like distributors. 

Asked about the expectation that Google will become a pay TV player in Kansas City or the possibility of the launch of a virtual pay TV provider, she reiterated the high cost of copying a cable firm's service. "We just can't see an economic way for someone to do that," Esteves said. "We just don't see how this makes a return for somebody...it is difficult for us to see someone directly competing with what cable provides." 

TWC may have a Kansas presence as well, but it amounts only to less than 1 percent of its financials, so there is no near-term Google risk, she said.

Comcast's streaming video service Streampix could be a model for TWC though, the CFO told the investor conference. The technology is in place, so "it's about getting programming content," she explained.

Esteves also spent some time discussing a trial in a small market in Texas where TWC has launched usage-based broadband pricing. It's about "giving [economically challenged] consumers options," she said. "Consumers can opt in or out."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai


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