Rutledge: Growing Customers Key to Future

Charter Chief Says Rate Increases Not Needed to Boost Profits
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Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge continued to beat the drum for his company’s $78.7 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, despite growing sentiment against the deal, telling an audience at an industry conference that the cable giant doesn’t need to raise rates to enjoy double-digit revenue growth.

Charter first announced its intention to purchase TWC in May, but has increasingly come under fire from critics who have warned the combined company would create a broadband duopoly with Comcast and dominate high-speed Internet service. Last night (Feb. 29) Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission expressing concern about the new Charter-Comcast duopoly.

“Growing customers is the key to our future,” Rutledge said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom conference in San Francisco. “We have not been a rate-driven revenue driver business; we’ve been a customer-creating business.”

Rutledge said rate increases made up less than 2% of total revenue growth last year and that Charter has grown video customer penetration from 33.9% in 2013 to 34.7% in 2015 by building a high-quality, service-oriented infrastructure. The idea is to expand that philosophy to Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

“Our objective is to take those assets, invest in them, and put a 2-way interface on every outlet,” Rutledge said. “We’re doing fine in Charter, we’ve continued to accelerate, and I think be able to get the new assets doing the same thing.”

He added that despite some recent noise, Charter has been working with both the FCC and the states to work out any issues concerning the combination and that Charter is “reasonably confident” the deals will pass regulatory muster.

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