Rutledge: ‘We’re Ready’

Charter Chief Says Ready to Roll With TWC, Bright House
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Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge said his company is prepared to take over the operations of Time Warner Cable and  Bright House Networks, adding that it continues to wind through the regulatory approval process with hopes for a closing date early next year.

"We’re ready,"Rutledge said at the UBS Media & Communications conference in New York. "We've talked to Time Warer Cable and Bright House employees, we've set up a field stucture, a new regional structure and told people how that is going to work. We're ready to close at any time whe we're given permission and be ready to start operating the business."

Charter agreed to purchase TWC and Bright House in May. After the deals are consummated, Charter will grow from a 4-million subscriber cable operator into a 17-million subscriber powerhouse with operations major markets like New York and Los Angeles.

Last week Dish chairman Charlie Ergen came out against the deals in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission, claiming the combination would stifle online video development. 

Rutledge didn’t address Ergen directly but said at the conference that the Charter deals don’t have the same issues as Comcast-TWC did earlier in the year. Comcast withdrew its purchase of TWC in April after it determined the FCC would not approve the deal, mainly because of its broadband dominance.

Since the Charter deal was announced, TWC has had some of its best performance in years. In the third quarter, TWC shed just 7,000 video customers, its lowest Q3 loss in nine years. 

At the UBS conference, Rutledge acknowledged the TWC gains, but said he would probably do it differently.

“They’ve done a nice job in continuing long-term value,” Rutledge said. “Not exactly the way we would do it [though].”

Rutledge said the main difference is that Charter believes in placing two-way interactive boxes in every home, and TWC has been putting one-way digital boxes in some homes as it moves to take it network all- digital.

“We believe the future of TV is 2-way interactive,” Rutledge said.

 The Charter chief also addressed concerns that federal regulators may have problems with Liberty Media chairman John Malone owning a substantial stake in Charter. There has been a question as to if Malone would favor Charter with deals for content providers in which Liberty or Malone owns stakes.

Rutledge said favoring Charter would make little sense for Liberty. And he added that his 27% interest in Charter will be diluted to about 18% in the company once the deals are closed.

“He [Malone] is not in a control position,” Rutledge said. “There is no issue there.”  

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