Time Warner Cable: No evidence of cord cutting

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 10:22am
Mike Robuck

Despite losing 155,000 video subscribers in the third quarter, Time Warner Cable COO Landel Hobbs said the company doesn't believe the losses are related to "cord cutting" by customers in favor of Internet videos.

Opinions have varied on whether consumers are severing ties with their traditional video providers in favor of over-the-top (OTT) video offerings on the Internet, but cable operators have consistently blamed the weak economy for the loss of most of the video subscribers.

Hobbs said Time Warner Cable was monitoring subscriber numbers in the college towns of Columbus, Ohio, and Austin, Texas, to see if cord cutting was taking place among college students.

Lower subscriber numbers in the college towns corresponded to flat student enrollments and not cord cutting, Hobbs said.

Time Warner Cable's video subscriber losses in the third quarter were primarily among its "single-play" subscribers, but subscribers for "double-play" video and data services actually increased in the third quarter, which was "opposite of what we would expect to see if there were meaningful cord cutting," according to Hobbs.

"We'll continue to monitor cord cutting but haven't found evidence where you might expect to see it," Hobbs said during this morning's conference call.

On the new services front, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt talked about the recent launch of ESPN programming on Time Warner Cable's TV Everywhere service.

"We plan to add more content from a wide range of networks to our TV Everywhere capability in the near future," said Britt. "In addition, we're on the cusp of harnessing the power of consumer electronics products in the home. In the not-too-distant future, our customers will have the opportunity to use their iPad as a remote control, and we're working on infrastructure that could enable customers to enjoy our entire video product on any IP-connected device in the home."

Britt said that broadband-connected TVs are starting to hit the market, and that Time Warner Cable wants to build the infrastructure to send its video services directly to those TVs in homes. The end result will be better user interfaces, the eventual departure of set-top boxes, and some of the software possibly moving back to the network instead of being at the edge device.

"In operations, we're redoubling our focus on the customer experience to further improve our competitive position," Britt said. "A number of very exciting products and services that have been in the incubation process are now poised for release.

"These new capabilities support our four "Any Es" framework that is the notion that our customers want access to any content anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Consistent with the anywhere, anytime aspects, we have launched our Remote DVR Manager to much of our footprint, including New York City, and whole-home DVR is now available in some systems and will be broadly available by year-end."

Britt also said that Time Warner Cable's triple-play-based SignatureHome whole-home service will be offered across much of the cable operator's footprint over the coming weeks. The feature-rich SignatureHome service launched on a trial basis this past summer in Charlotte, N.C., with a price tag of $179 per month.

Britt said Time Warner Cable will also soon offer "a budget-orientated video offering consistent with our belief that some customers would like a smaller package."

On the competitive front, Hobbs said AT&T's penetration for its U-verse service in Time Warner Cable's footprint increased from 22 percent to 23 percent in the third quarter, while Verizon stayed roughly the same at 10 percent of the homes passed.



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