News

TWC’s Rob Marcus Decides Some Disclosures Are ‘TMI’

8/13/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Time Warner Cable chief operating
officer Rob Marcus, a champion of
full disclosure, has learned the hard
way over the past few years about
how too much information sometimes
can be a bad thing.

Since becoming chief financial officer in 2008 and rising to COO in 2010,
Marcus has been a proponent of providing
investors and analysts as much
detailed financial information as possible.
TWC was the first major publicly
traded MSO to provide quarterly
trending schedules, charts and data
chock full of info on subscriber metrics,
programming costs and other
data, all of which proved so popular
other top MSOs have followed suit.

But earlier this month, Marcus and
the company pulled the plug on one
disclosure practice — providing two
to three intra-quarter subscriber updates
each period — because investor
reaction was way out of proportion to
the data provided.

How much out of proportion? The
most famous incident — on Sept. 15,
2010, when Marcus correctly stated that
TWC might have its first-ever negative
primary service unit growth in the third
quarter of that year — resulted in the
stock plunging 5% and dragging down
the entire sector that day.

Other times, when the news was
good, the reaction was tepid. When
Marcus said at a Sept. 21, 2011, conference
that video subscribers were looking
better in the third quarter than in
the prior year, the stock rose a paltry
0.5% (31 cents).

On TWC’s Aug. 2 earnings call,
Marcus said that after consulting with
many shareholders, the company concluded
the practice “just isn’t helpful.”
Starting in January, for the fourthquarter
earnings call, the practice will
stop.

To ease the transition, TWC will
continue providing updates for the remainder
of this year.

Preston Padden:
Macon Trouble?

Armed with a report from a Macon,
Ga., newspaper, former ABC president
Preston Padden couldn’t resist tweaking
two broadcasting executives who,
like him, testified before the Senate
Commerce Committee
recently about
retransmission consent.

The story in The Telegraph was about
a local court finally clearing the way for
Cox Communications to drop former
ABC affiliate WPGA in Macon. WPGA
left the ABC camp and switched to syndicated
programming, saying ABC’s retransmission
demands were too high
and its programming too risqué.

Padden, currently a senior fellow
at the Silicon Flatirons Center at the
University of Colorado, wants to scrap
the retrans and must-carry system, so
long as the compulsory license also
gets pushed into the tar pits. He said
he thinks TV stations should be able
to negotiate individual deals for their
programming, rather than rely on the
Rube Goldberg construct of a blanket
license and a separate retransmission
negotiation ostensibly for the value of
the signal rather than the shows.

Padden emailed National Association
of Broadcasters
president Gordon
Smith
and CBS retrans negotiator
Marty Franks (his fellow witnesses at
the July 20 Senate hearing), a link to
the Telegraph story and this note:

“Please see the story below. WPGA
in Macon, Ga., decided to no longer
broadcast ABC programming. As a result,
the local cable company decided
to drop the station. Apparently, at least
in this instance, it was the station’s
programming, not its signal, that was
deemed important to the cable company
and to its viewers.”

In a follow-up with The Wire, Padden
said the ABC programming Cox
was going to pick up locally was from
Fox affiliate WGXA, via a digital multicast
channel.
So, Padden said, not only was the
programming key, but Cox was opting
for the less-robust multicast signal .

No word at press time as to whether
Smith and Franks replied to the email,
also sent to Senate Commerce staffers.

— John Eggerton

FCC’s McDowell:
Going Hollywood

The Federal Communications Commission is
weighing the right way to define an online video
provider, a decision that will help determine the
competitive future of broadband video.

Commissioner Robert McDowell may be seeking
input from Hollywood players while in Tinseltown
this week.

He told The Wire he will be on the West Coast
Aug. 13-21, meeting with studio executives, something
he does every few years. “I go out there and
talk to the TV and the film studios, but also new
media, to find out what kind of challenges there
are.” Will he poll them on their definition of OVP?
“I can do that, too,” he said.

It is not a vacation, per se, but he will bring the
family along. “I will be working while they are
playing,” he said. Last week, he was on “staycation,”
taking “visits” to Washington, D.C., and the
surrounding areas. “My 5-year-old was reminding
me that he has never been to the zoo,” McDowell
quipped.

With Congress out for recess, the National Zoo
is a good substitute.

— John Eggerton

DON’T TASE DZUBAN, BRO

Good sport Mark Dzuban, CEO of the Society
of Cable Telecommunications Engineers,
visited the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention
in Bellingham, Wash., on Aug. 4 and
volunteered to sit in a 4 million-volt Tesla coil,
seen here. As The Wire limitedly understands
it, it’s a transformer that really cranks up the
voltage. The demonstrator said the museum
had only had one or two volunteers over the
past year. Dzuban later said the cage shielded
him from the electricity: “It was like being at
the termination point of a lightning strike, only
the current doesn’t pass through you.” PR man
Paul Schneider provided the story and photo,
taken by Drew Zogby, president of Alpha Technologies,
based in Bellingham.

November

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