TWC's Britt: Retrans Rules Should Change

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New York—Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said at an industry conference Monday that current retransmission consent regulations may have to change in the wake of the changing business landscape.

Britt, speaking at the UBS Media and Communications conference here Monday, said that television stations are under more pressure now that network affiliate fees have all but dried up and the local advertising market has deteriorated. He added that the overall structure of station groups have changed over the years, putting additional pressure on the companies.

“The station groups are in really, really bad shape; they’re drowning, quite honestly,” Britt said. “The difference in this retransmission cycle from previous ones is they don’t have anywhere to go, so they are making big demands. It certainly seems counter to what’s going on in the economy generally. It is something we’re going to try to take up with the new Congress. The structure which may have made sense in the early 1990s probably doesn’t make sense at this point. But that is for later.”

The economy is affecting Time Warner Cable as well. Britt said on the company’s third quarter conference call in November that RGU growth was slowing dramatically in October.

At the conference Monday he said that trend was continuing in November.

“Our rate of growth in RGUs slowed dramatically in October from the year before. The new news is that has continued,” Britt said, although he declined to give guidance for the coming months. “Obviously we all have our own views of the economy and whatever that is going to affect it a lot.”     

Britt also downplayed any possible big deals for Time Warner Cable, adding that while prices may appear to be cheap now, here are no bargains to be had.

“People that you think might sometime be sellers and that sometime we might be interested in are all smart enough to know this isn’t a very good time to sell,” Britt said. “I don’t think anyone is going to sell while things are cheap.” 

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