Time Warner Cable CEO Suggests FCC Set-Top Box Proposal Is ‘Really Unnecessary’

Rob Marcus thinks bright idea might “have unintended consequences that could actually stymie or thwart innovation”

The FCC shouldn’t count on Time Warner Cable (TWC) Chairman and CEO Rob Marcus for his unconditional support on its new proposal about consumer set-top devices.

From the very first question fielded on TWC’s fourth-quarter and full-year 2015 earnings call, Marcus waved off the Federal Communication Commission’s proposal that could make it easier for consumers to choose the kind of set-top box that delivers their cable TV.

“Any attempt to create regulation is really unnecessary given the advances that have been made, driven by marketplace forces,” he told market analysts and reporters listening in.

In Marcus’ opinion, every multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) has made great strides to make video products available through a variety of devices, and without any imposition of regulation.

Plus, the FCC getting involved “could have unintended consequences that could actually stymie or thwart innovation,” he said.

“I’m highly skeptical,” Marcus concluded, though he promised to reserve judgment until he sees some more specifics.

On Wednesday, the FCC issued a proposal to allow cable and satellite subscribers to pick the devices they use to watch programming; most are currently required to lease their set-top boxes from their cable or satellite providers.

The change, if adopted, would allow tech companies like Google, Amazon and Apple to expand into consumer devices combining Internet and cable programming — an expansion that traditional cable and TV companies have long opposed.

Time Warner Cable stock shot up within the first 10 minutes of open-market trading on Thursday. The company released its Q4 earnings around 6 a.m. ET; read all about TWC’s Q4 and overall 2015 financials here.

Also during the call, Marcus and company did not provide guidance for their financial future, as the Charter Communications merger is still pending. That process is moving forward, he promised, but there is no specific timetable for closing. Marcus explained that delays in the state of California can be thanked for that.

In May, Charter Communications announced its plan to buy Time Warner Cable for $78.7 billion.