Cablevision Systems CEO James Dolan had an interesting question at the Citigroup Global Media & Telecommunications conference in San Francisco last Wednesday for Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts:
“Can you talk a little bit about what concerns you have for the basic bundle and the fact that the cost of it continues to grow, what would be the impact for our businesses both programming and also distributors?” Dolan asked.
“I should start by saying, what do you think?” Roberts jokingly replied, referring perhaps to Cablevision’s ongoing carriage dispute over Food Network and HGTV.
“I’m sitting here, you’re sitting there,” Dolan parried.
In reply, Roberts basically acknowledged the tensions between programmers and distributors, ending with the thought that, thankfully, new products like broadband, telephone and commercial services are softening the blow. “If [video] was all we had, it would be really bad,” Roberts said.
Pali Research media analyst Rich Greenfield, in a blog posting, said investors evaluating Cablevision and its management tend to focus on missteps the company may have made in the past. “However, [Cablevision executives] have guts and are willing to take a stand unlike anyone else in the media sector,” Greenfield wrote, adding he was “literally stunned” when Dolan asked his question at the conference.
Roberts didn’t impress Greenfield as much. “It took Roberts 811 words to answer Dolan’s question and the rambling answer (paraphrasing) was (1) I don’t have a great answer, (2) glad I have higher margin businesses such as broadband and voice or we’d be in really bad shape just being in the video business and (3) if cable systems don’t work out well, at least we have hedged our bets at Comcast by trying to acquire NBC,” Greenfield wrote.
“Brian and Jim had a long relationship and his question was perfectly appropriate,” Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury said. “We don’t agree with how the Q and A has been characterized.” Cablevision senior VP of media relations Charlie Schueler said, “Mr. Dolan and Mr. Roberts are old friends and Jim thought Brian had a great answer.”
Wondering What’s In A New Name for Time Warner Cable?
Time Warner Cable has been officially separated from Time Warner Inc. since last March. Now, the cable operator might be cutting one of the last symbolic ties to its erstwhile parent: The MSO is considering renaming itself, Dow Jones Newswires reported Dec. 30. A Time Warner Cable spokesman confirmed the company is having a high-level “discussion” internally about a name change but said it’s still too early to say if or when that would happen.
A new name would help distinguish Time Warner Cable from the media company — not to mention give the ambiguous “TWC” decisively to The Weather Channel.
Dow Jones noted that Time Warner Cable is under no contractual obligation to rename itself.
But if it does, here are some unsolicited suggestions for a new moniker:
Road Runner Cable.
Get Tough Corp. [or should that be RollOver Inc.? Maybe they’ll let customers “decide”].
Start Over LLC.
Full Service Network [but then, with “FSN,” you have the confusion with the regional Fox Sports Nets].
Reader comments posted under a Jan. 4 Bit Rate blog posting on Multichannel.com had some great and not-so-hot entries. Some good ones were:
QUBE (a 1970s revival)
And, The Wire’s favorite (from reader Steve Goldmintz of AE Feldman Associates): Britt House Networks.
Kudos to Cabler Cox for Executing on Diversity
Amid a New Year’s flurry of executive promotions crossing The Wire’s transom from cable operators and networks came a couple of back-to-back nods from Cox Communications to highly achieving employees of color.
Kimberly Edmunds on Jan. 4 was named senior vice president of customer operations, a new company-wide position reporting to chief operating officer Leo Brennan. Cox is the large cable operator most closely associated with superior customer service, so that’s a big job, indeed. In Cox’s tradition of moving people in and out of operating roles, Edmunds had been general manager of the cable company’s Kansas and Arkansas operations. Before that she led Cox’s national customer care operations.
The next day, Cox promoted William B. Cossey Jr. to executive director of supply-chain integration, after he played a key role in implementing a new purchasing management system. Both are African-Americans, prompting a tip of The Wire’s hat to Cox in the name of diversity.