Time Warner Cable CEO Sees ‘Obsessive Interest’ in Millennials

Whether due to millennials or not, there’s growing evidence traditional cable TV channels are under mounting pressure to adapt

Last Updated: April 30, 2015 @ 5:58 PM

Nearly a week after Comcast pulled the plug on its mega merger with his company, Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus weighed in on the subject of millennials during TWC’s quarterly earnings conference call Thursday.

“There’s an obsessive interest in millennials, maybe at the expense of the broader customer base,” said Marcus, who was quick to highlight how Time Warner Cable added 30,000 residential video customers during Q1, the first positive quarterly addition since 2009.

Marcus’ comments follow Apple CEO Tim Cook’s prediction earlier this week that “major changes in media” are coming. Apple is reportedly working on its own subscription television service, something that Time Warner Inc. CEO Jeff Bewkes said during Wednesday’s earnings call he’s “pretty confident” will happen, describing Apple as a “very forward thinking” company. 

At play, it seems, are two competing storylines — one that suggests TV audiences want ‘a la carte’ entertainment, another that argues the traditional cable bundle is the best bet. 

Time Warner Cable COO Dinni Jain noted on the earnings call that many customers “don’t want to get bogged down in a lot of choices.” And on the subject of a so-called skinny bundle, Jain said “we don’t want to be pioneers on that. We’ll just be fast followers.”

Whether due to millennials or not, there’s growing evidence traditional cable TV channels are under mounting pressure. Viacom on Thursday, for example, reported year-over-year declines in subscribers for all of its key U.S. cable channels, including MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. And while Time Warner Cable’s residential video subscribers did increase between the last two quarters, the total number of residential video subscribers (currently more than 10.8 million) declined 3 percent year over year and more than 9 percent from the same period two years ago.

Time Warner Inc. — which spun off Time Warner Cable in 2009 — is distributing content through Apple in a variety of new ways, from its ‘HBO Now’ over-the-top offering on Apple TV to CNN’s placement on the Apple Watch.

“There’s a lot of energy and innovation around video on demand that is getting super charged by broadband,” said CEO Jeff Bewkes on the company’s earnings call.

Brad Adgate, VP of Research at media services firm Horizon Media told The Wrap in an interview that those focused on millennials are making a long-term bet. “If a marketer can get a millennials to be brand loyal there is a significant lifetime value for the product.  I agree with Tim Cook and Time Warner Inc that changes in media we are seeing now are just the tip of the iceberg .”

Time Warner Cable spokesperson Bobby Amirshahi clarified Jain’s comments in an email to TheWrap, saying, “Though we launched TV Essentials four years ago as a slimmed-down TV package, it hasn’t had much traction. If anyone figures out how to make skinnier bundles work, then we’d be quick to follow that.”

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