Forget all the chatter about low priced pay TV skinny bundles. Strange as it may sound at a time when investors worry about pay TV cord cutting, the real action is with costly fat bundles, Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus told investors today at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference.
“I’m certainly intrigued by the experimentation going on,” he says. For example Dish Network’s Sling TV hopes to attract cord cutters or young adults who consider traditional expanded basic packages too expensive by charging $20 a month for a much smaller collection of channels.
But “headlines over the last several months are way ahead of the facts,” he says. “We haven’t yet seen a customer migration to those bundles.”
What’s the real story? In Q2, TWC saw 82% of its new video customers taking “the fattest of the fat bundles,” Marcus says. It’s “an increase in the percent of our customers taking the large bundle. It’s still a great value.”
That doesn’t mean TWC will ignore skinny alternatives. “We’re only limited by what our programming partners allow us to do,” Marcus says. “If we see some traction in the marketplace, we’ll respond fast. We’re going to negotiate hard with our programming partners to deliver it.”
Separately, the TWC chief praised the FCC for reviewing its rules governing retransmission consent negotiations with broadcasters. The current ones are “massively out of date” and favor broadcasters. “If you need a reminder of that, look at the meteoric rise in retransmission consent fees.”
He’d particularly like regulators to stop programmers from blocking their shows from a cable company’s Internet subscribers when there’s a dispute over terms for video ones. “That is the direct corollary of [the FCC’s] Open Internet principles…It’s good that they’re raising it here. It’s unfortunate that they’re only limiting it to broadcasters.”
Easy to see why he’s so concerned about a threat to the Internet business. The “most meaningful trend” for the No. 2 cable company has been the “massive” increase in broadband usage. TWC’s transmissions now average 120 Gb per customer per month vs 30 Gb just three years ago.