COO Rob Marcus — who’ll become CEO at year’s end — didn’t want to be specific. But he told investors at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference that the 32-day loss of CBS-owned stations and channels “depressed [new] connects and increased disconnects.” Time Warner Cable also had to increase spending on marketing “to get our message out there,” to buy antennas that it gave some customers for free, and for replacement programming. But Marcus says that “the issues that were at stake in this negotiation had such implications that we felt we had no choice….There was a fair amount of pain we had to endure.” Still, “we felt it was justified….We ended up in a better place than we started.” While he wouldn’t discuss the terms of the settlement, he says that — even with the CBS deal — the cable company expects to see its programming outlays increase this year about 9%, a tad lower than the 10% it had projected early this year. “That’s a shock,” analyst Jessica Reif Cohen said in response. Marcus added that the dispute helped to promote a debate over whether lawmakers should change the rules of engagement between programmers and distributors to avoid blackouts. “It’s starting the dialogue…The existing legislation doesn’t work.”
TWC investors have wondered whether the company might try to improve its negotiating leverage by combining with another cable company — something that Liberty Media’s John Malone wants to arrange with Charter Communications, where he’s the largest investor. “We’re interested in consolidation to the extent it can create value for our shareholders,” Marcus says. “The key is being able to enter into deals that benefit our shareholders as opposed to the other party to the transaction.”
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