Time Warner Cable CEO Eyes Pay TV Sub Growth, Says Bundle Still Dominant

Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus - H 2015
Courtesy of Time Warner Cable

"The headlines over the last several months are way ahead of the facts," Rob Marcus says about the growth of "skinny" video bundles.

Time Warner Cable continues to believe it could grow its pay TV subscriber base this year, chairman and CEO Rob Marcus told an investor conference on Thursday.

Speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills in a session that was webcast, he said "I still think It’s certainly achievable" to grow pay TV users this year. He had mentioned that goal late last year.

After first-quarter additions and second-quarter pay TV subscriber losses, the company at the mid-year point was down 15,000 customers. In the third quarter, "we have had great momentum," with the quarter "substantially" better than last year's, even though it is "not clear whether we can be positive" in the quarter, Marcus said. But he added that the fourth quarter seasonally tends to be stronger. Overall, he said the company has a "good shot" at growing its video subscriber base in 2015.

Asked about the state of the pay TV bundle amid recent drops in entertainment stocks and talk about growth in "skinny" bundles of limited networks, Marcus said: "The headlines over the last several months are way ahead of the facts."

While some providers have been offering skinny bundles, he said the industry has "not seen this massive customer migration." TW Cable in the second quarter saw roughly 82 percent of its video users take its big bundle of 200-300 channels, he said, adding that an increasing percentage of total video subs are taking larger bundles. "It’s still great value," Marcus argued.

Asked about the company's recent subscriber momentum, the TW Cable boss said "it’s not a flash in the pan." Questioned about the reasons, he said: "We’re executing better in every facet of our business. We’re just operating better."

Will the FCC in its review of rules for retransmission consent fee negotiations be game changers for pay TV companies? Marcus said it was "too early" to predict, but reiterated that the company has long argued that current rules are "massively out of date." He concluded: "I am not declaring any victories yet."