Time Warner Cable may be beyond the reach of Charter Communications, but CEO Tom Rutledge says he isn’t out of the deal game yet. Charter is “still interested in wisely acquiring subscribers,” he told analysts this morning, suggesting that he and his top shareholder, Liberty Media’s John Malone, are still hunting. And he may not have given up on TWC: Charter hasn’t withdrawn its proposed slate of independent directors for TWC, and Rutledge declined to say whether he might urge Washington regulators to challenge Comcast’s $42.5B all stock offer that outbid Charter. “I haven’t taken a position,” he says. In response to a different question he noted that government-required conditions on any deal “could have an impact on the business.” The CEO adds that consolidation can make the operation more efficient, but rejected the popular notion that a bigger company would find it easier to negotiate lower programming costs. “I’m not sure that Time Warner [Cable] and Charter together would change our scale from a programming cost perspective,” he says. Even with multiple deals to add smaller operators “it’s hard to put together scale that would meaningfully change it.” On other matters: Rutledge is unimpressed with Netflix‘s claim that Verizon and other broadband providers are slowing transmission speeds. “Netflix is putting themselves in a position to throttle their own network to gain sympathy,” he said without explanation. “It’s an interesting approach.” The CEO spoke with analysts following the release of the company’s Q4 earnings which contributed to a 5.2% drop in its stock price this morning. Revenues, at $2.15B, were +5% vs the period last year (assuming it had owned the several systems it bought from Cablevision last year). That pretty much matched analyst expectations. Net income at $39M was up from a $73M loss. Earnings at 35 cents a share topped forecasts for 24 cents. But the number of video subscribers fell 3% vs last year’s Q4 to 4.18M while the company reported rising costs for programming and marketing.
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