Rob Marcus says company sees Google Fiber as “real competitor”
Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus argued Wednesday that his company’s controversial $45 billion merger with Comcast will benefit customers if regulators approve the deal.
“We are from a strategic and philosophical perspective, incredibly well aligned,” Marcus said, adding, “The combination truly is a dream combination.”
Marrying the two companies will bring an estimated 33 million cable subscribers under Comcast’s umbrella, making it the dominant player in providing broadband and cable in the United States. In turn, the greater size and scale will allow the companies to innovate at a faster clip, Marcus argued during a keynote speech at the Deutsche Bank Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference.
He did not, however, indicate that it would lead to lower prices for subscribers. Customers shell out $80 a month on average for cable or satellite television. Faced with ever escalating bills, many are voting with their feet. The cable business shed 80,000 net subscribers over a 12-month period last year, according to Leichtman Research Group.
Marcus put the blame for rising prices squarely on content creators and cable channels who charge providers retransmission fees for the right to air their programming. In the past, disputes over these fees have led to blackouts.
He also denied that the combined negotiating power of Comcast and Time Warner Cable will lead to more of this brand of brinksmanship and shot down complaints from programmers that they will lack power at the negotiating table.
“I find that ironic…given how much programming costs have risen,” Marcus said. “I don’t think the world changes in that regard.”
Rising fees are leading to increased competition for pay television and broadband dollars. One of these emerging services, Google Fiber, is busy rolling out its industrial-strength broadband service in cities such as Austin, Texas and Portland, Ore. That has Time Warner Cable’s attention.
“We take them seriously, they’re a real competitor…they don’t have the incumbent’s baggage and they have the Google brand,” Marcus said.
The Time Warner Cable CEO said he is not allowing the merger’s various regulatory hurdles to distract him from improving the company’s services and balance sheets, even though his own future is up the air.
“I haven’t allowed myself to think about what the next chapter for me personally is,” Marcus said.
“We’re playing for pride,” he added.