Rob Marcus pitched a what-me-worry response to an analyst who asked him this morning about Time Warner Cable‘s inability to persuade other pay TV providers (aside from close ally Bright House) to carry SportsNet LA — which the Dodgers own and TWC distributes. “The good news is the product is great,” the CEO says. “We have a first place baseball team and the production quality is outstanding….There are a whole lot of customers at Time Warner Cable who are happy” while others are “moving to Time Warner Cable” to watch the Dodgers. TWC is said to want other distributors to pay $4 per month for each subscriber — including those who don’t watch sports. That would make SportsNet LA one of the country’s most expensive regional sports channels. TWC needs the high price to help it cover its $8.35B, 25-year commitment for the distribution rights.
On other matters, Marcus seemed equally unfazed by HBO’s agreement yesterday to let Amazon stream many of its hit series including The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. That could tempt some people to favor Internet viewing over traditional cable TV, he says, but “it has more to do with the health of the premium [channel] business than the multichannel video business.” The cable offering is fine because “there’s still nothing that rivals the video experience that we deliver” especially with sports and live news. And TWC wins both ways: “We embrace video on the Internet in that it highlights the value of our [high-speed data] offering.”
He declined to address reports that the FCC may weaken its net neutrality rules — which FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has denied. “We’ll have to see” what’s in the order the agency will make public today, Marcus says. “Our business practice is to not discriminate and not block…That will continue to be our operating policy.” That’s a clever position to take as he asks the FCC and Justice Department to approve Comcast’s $45B acquisition of TWC. Marcus expects the deal to close around year end, when the combined operations plan to “hit the ground running.”