On the Call: TWC's Britt, Cablevision's Seibert

Fri, 08/06/2010 - 8:10am
The Associated Press

(AP) – Most major cable companies don't like the idea of letting consumers order cable channels a la carte, where they pay only for the channels they watch. Consumers typically watch just a handful of channels, not the hundreds they've had to buy as part of a cable tier.

But on Thursday, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt championed the idea of offering a smaller number of cable channels in less-expensive packages during a chat with analysts at the company's second-quarter earnings call.

QUESTION: Could you give an update on any discussions you might be having with content companies on providing lower-priced, more economic tiers?

RESPONSE: What we see is a segmented economy, and some people clearly would like to be able to buy smaller video packages ... and I think it would be a good idea for the broader industry and multichannel providers and programmers to meet that need.

Obviously, the economics of the programmers [works in a way] where they try to bundle all of their networks together, and there's a history of ever-adding more networks. They think that their interest is having the big packages.

So, not surprisingly, we don't see a lot of people signing up for the small packages, but I do think there's a consumer need there.

Meanwhile, Cablevision Systems has been dogged by questions of whether it's planning to spin off Rainbow, a division that houses its cable networks AMC, IFC, Sundance and others.

The New York regional cable company in February spun-off its Madison Square Garden group, which owns the famous arena of the same name plus Radio City Music Hall, the New York Knicks, regional sports channels and other properties.

A Rainbow spin-off would give investors a way to invest directly in Cablevision's cable channels.

Cablevision's executive vice president Gregg Seibert discussed the possibility with analysts during a conference call on Thursday.

QUESTON: Has there been any thought internally to Cablevision sort of unlocking the hidden value of the cable networks that are within Cablevision?

RESPONSE: We get asked this question pretty much every quarter. And I'm going to give you pretty much the same boring answer that I give you every quarter, which is that we very much like the free cash flow characteristics of the business.

And as we've continued to reorient the portfolio, one of the reasons behind the spin-off of Madison Square Garden ... was the fact that it was going to go through a significant renovation, and its free cash flow characteristics did not match with those of Cablevision, Cablevision's core telecom business and the Rainbow business.

And while I'll never rule any type of transaction out, at this point in time, we're quite comfortable with our holdings at Rainbow.

More Broadband Direct 8/06/10:

•  Data leads the charge for Mediacom's Q2 earnings
•  Google, Verizon deny net neutrality report
•  FCC to open spectrum for wireless backhaul
•  On the Call: TWC's Britt, Cablevision's Seibert
•  Consumer demand boosts cable, satellite TV profits
•  Motorola Foundation kicks in $100k to Cable Center lecture series

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