Should the FCC or Justice Department be concerned about Liberty Media chairman John Malone’s growing interest in Lionsgate and other content companies while Charter Communications — where he’s the dominant shareholder — pursues its $67 billion transactions to pick up Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks?
Not as far as Charter CEO Tom Rutledge is concerned.
Malone’s “not in a controlling position” at most of the companies where Liberty’s an investor, he said today at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. “By any conventional analysis there is no issue there.”
What’s more “it wouldn’t be economic for him to advantage Charter” with sweetheart content deals, Rutledge says.
Regulators are wary about potential conflicts of interests by companies that own content and distribution.
But Rutledge says that “we haven’t attracted the kinds of concerns” that Comcast did when it aborted its $45.2 billion effort to buy Time Warner Cable. “I think it’s moving along well.” Regulators were concerned that Comcast’s acquisition of the No. 2 cable company would make it too big, and create too many problems with NBCUniversal.
The CEO says that Time Warner Cable customers can expect to start seeing Charter’s so-called Worldbox — which can be easily upgraded and adapted to interactive services– shortly after the companies merge.
“You have to be careful about how you roll things out.” But “in the long run having high quality search and discovery in the [user interface] that can be easily modified and that can be done seamlessly without having to revisit customers is the way to go.”
Rutledge is a big believer in on-demand services — especially those that take advantage of cable’s broadband services. “This whole notion of video space is not a valid concept,” he says.
Indeed, he doesn’t mind so-called over-the-top streaming video services even if they promote TV cord-cutting. “I like OTT television because it helps me sell broadband,” he says.
He’s also intrigued with so-called skinny bundles that offer fewer channels than the expanded basic bundle but at a lower price. Alth ough consumers would prefer to get everything, programmers have made it too expensive.
“The value proposition has been the problem,” Rutledge says. “People can’t afford it. … I’d love to buy all my content a la carte and sell in packages. But that’s not the way it’s sold to us. So it’s hard to put skinny packages together.”