Marcus Downplays Merger Talk

TWC Chief Says Management Team ‘Completely Focused’

New York – Time Warner Cable chief operating officer Rob Marcus, speaking to a packed house of industry professionals here Monday at the UBS Global Media & Communications conference, backtracked on a recent article that seemed to show he was ready to sell the cable giant at the right price, and instead focused on his plans to organically grow the troubled MSO.

Marcus referred to a recent Bloomberg News article that quoted him as saying he was the right man to steer TWC through its current M&A situation, adding that according to unnamed sources TWC would be willing to do a deal in the $150 to $160 per share range.

 Marcus said his comments to Bloomberg were taken out of context in order to generate “a sexy headline,” and were made in response to a question about how a deal would impact his career. Marcus is slated to become chairman and CEO of TWC in January, after the retirement of current chairman and CEO Glenn Britt.

Marcus said at the UBS conference that his job is to maximize TWC shareholder value and personal ambition should not get in the way of that.

“Whether or not TWC participates in M&A as a buyer or seller is 100% driven by what is in the best interests of our shareholders,” Marcus said, adding that TWC’s management team is “completely focused” on running the company.

TWC has been under siege since June, when Liberty Media reportedly approached the company about merging with Charter Communications. Liberty owns a 27% stake in Charter. Since then Charter has reportedly lined up bank financing for the cash portion of the deal, while other reports have Comcast and Cox anticipating either joining a deal or attempting a TWC takeover on their own.

And while most industry observers believe that some form of consolidation will take place in the industry in the coming months, Time Warner Cable also is gearing up for running its business solo. The company recently hired former Insight chief operating officer Dinni Jain, who will become COO of the second largest cable operator effective Jan. 13, and plans to expand is video on demand offerings, boost customer service and repackage products.

“The guy knows how to run cable companies,” Marcus said of Jain, adding that both see eye to eye philosophically on how to manage the business.

Marcus referred to TWC’s Max Markets plan, first unveiled during its third quarter conference call, which will focus on improving customer service, product offerings and high-speed Internet speeds.

Marcus added that TWC will expand its VOD offerings to 75,000 hours and will continue to roll out is first generation user interface, currently in about 1.5 million homes, to about 2 million by the end of the year.  Another 6 million boxes will get the UI in 2014, he said.

In addition, he said the next generation UI is still in beta testing and will be rolled out with TWC’s next generation set-tops.

Marcus also commented on TWC’s regional sports networks, adding that its TWC Sports network in Los Angeles has exceeded expectations. A joint venture with the Los Angeles Dodgers should launch in February, and although no other distributors have signed on to the network yet, he expects more to carry the channel as the Major League Baseball season approaches.