Time Warner Cable CFO Discusses Charter Deal Talk, Netflix

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Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt

Artie Minson tells a Barcelona conference that cable mergers don't necessarily help keep content costs in check, but that the firm was open to integrating Netflix into set-top boxes.

LONDON – Time Warner Cable is open to discussing an integration of Netflix into its pay TV set-top boxes, CFO Artie Minson told an investor conference in Barcelona on Wednesday.

Appearing at the 13th annual Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, he also discussed the outlook for cable deals, including recent suggestions of a possible bid for TWC.

Early in the session, Minson was asked if the second-largest U.S. cable firm could integrate Netflix. "We are always open to different conversations," he replied, especially when they focus on making subscribers' overall video experience better.

U.K. cable giant Virgin Media, owned by John Malone's Liberty Global, recently struck a set-top box integration deal with Netflix that is making the streaming company's video content available on users' TV screens. A couple of smaller Scandinavian cable firms have struck similar deals, with analysts curious to see if any of the U.S. pay TV companies will look to reach such an agreement.

Asked about recent chatter about cable consolidation, Minson said TWC would remain conservative in decisions about possible deals. "We are very deliberate," he said. "The key word is going to be discipline."

The CFO also said that TWC wants to ensure that either as a buyer or seller, any transaction would make money for investors. "We want to make sure in any hypothetical transaction that it makes sense for our shareholders," he said.

Questioned about reports that Malone's Liberty Media and Charter Communications, in which it owns a 27 percent stake, have approached or would soon approach TWC about a Charter-TWC combination, Minson said: "I can't comment on rumors or speculation at this point."

He was also questioned about many cable industry observers' belief that deals could boost companies' scale and thereby strengthen them in carriage disputes with content companies. But Minson said it was "unclear" that scale itself could improve this dynamic in the short term.

TWC has in the past said it doesn't feel much pressure to get bigger.

Minson also quipped Wednesday that some deals that have recently been discussed have been suggested for the past 15 years.

Discussing carriage talks and disputes with content companies, he acknowledged that "it continues to be a tough environment."

Asked if offering an Aereo-type service or owning more content would strengthen pay TV companies in carriage talks, Minson said the company mostly plans to focus on an established approach. "We will continue to negotiate hard," he said.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai