Most other distributors, including DirecTV and Dish Network, refuse to pay the estimated $5 per subscriber per month that TWC wants. That’s been “one of my 2015 surprises and disappointments,” Marcus told investors today at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York.
That has hurt his company. TWC committed $8.35 billion for a 25-year hold on Dodgers rights. But “we’re not giving up. We’ll undoubtedly try to get back to the table, and hopefully we’ll cut deals.”
On the subject of surprises, Marcus says that the biggest one for the year is that he’s still running TWC: Twelve months ago, he says, he was “totally confident” that the No. 2 cable operator would be part of Comcast by now.
Comcast pulled back when federal regulators objected, leading to another surprise for Marcus: the speedy effort by Charter Communications to make its $67 billion transactions to pick up TWC and Bright House Networks — overcoming a rival bid by French billionaire Patrick Drahi’s Altice.
Marcus admits that he has “done a lousy job” of predicting how long it will take for the FCC and Justice Department antitrust officials to decide whether to oppose TWC’s plan. He notes, though, that the FCC’s unofficial decision clock runs to early March. “I would have hoped it moved along more quickly given the work regulators have done on the previous transaction,” he says.
In the meantime, Marcus says TWC is making progress in hanging on to video subscribers and winning new ones for broadband.
He’s “completely open” to the idea of offering Netflix through its set-top boxes — something that the big cable companies have talked about but have yet to do. “We want to deliver what our customers want to experience.”
Marcus says he’s not concerned about Amazon’s video ambitions — including its agreement yesterday to offer premium services led by Showtime and Starz. “We both resell premiums in the same kind of way,” he said. “It’s not an area that’s been terribly profitable for us. But it rounds out the bundle.”
Like other cable execs, Marcus is irked by how much cord cutting and skinny bundles “have monopolized the headlines.” TWC just had “the best video subscriber year we’ve had in a decade.” He also described the company as “embracers of over the top [streaming] video” because “it takes advantage of our robust broadband product.”
But he also describes the expanded basic package as “a tremendous value to our customers. There’s value to simplicity.”
Indeed, he says that 82% of TWC’s gross video connects were for its fat bundle.