CEO: Time Warner Cable to keep ‘significant’ Charlotte presence

Time Warner Cable CEO discusses merger and more

Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus, who was in Charlotte this week for executive meetings and community service projects, discusses the company's merger with Charter, service and high-speed Internet.
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Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus, who was in Charlotte this week for executive meetings and community service projects, discusses the company's merger with Charter, service and high-speed Internet.

Charlotte could lose some finance and accounting jobs as part of Time Warner Cable’s pending merger with Charter Communications, but the city could gain workers over time, CEO Rob Marcus said Thursday.

In addition to being the dominant cable provider in Charlotte, Time Warner Cable is also a major employer, with more than 3,100 workers here. The company has previously said Charter might relocate some workers to other cities as part of the deal but that it’s premature to disclose any specifics.

“My expectation, although I can’t promise it, is Charter will very much want to utilize the terrific space we have here, which means bring jobs here,” Marcus said Thursday. “So it may not be exactly the same functions at the end of this whole thing, but we will certainly have a significant presence down in Charlotte.”

Marcus, Time Warner Cable’s CEO since 2014, was in Charlotte this week for meetings with senior executives from around the country and for community service projects at two local schools. Wearing a T-shirt, cargo shorts and work gloves, he pushed wheelbarrows and installed playground parts along with the rest of the crew.

Meanwhile, the 50-year-old is working on his second major telecommunications merger in two years.

In February 2014, the New York-based company agreed to sell to Comcast, but its suitor walked away in April 2015 after intense scrutiny by regulators. One month later, Stamford, Conn.-based Charter, which is also buying Bright House Networks, agreed to purchase Time Warner Cable for $55 billion.

Marcus said he was surprised the Comcast deal unraveled but “absolutely” expects the Charter purchase to receive regulatory approval. Some of his reasons: The combined company would be smaller than under the previous deal, and it doesn’t produce TV content.

“We learned something from the first round of going through this. Charter was very proactive in offering certain concessions right out of the box,” Marcus said. “I think all of those things work to help our case this time around.”

Marcus isn’t expected to stay on at Charter, and his exit package could exceed $100 million, according to the New York Times.

The company has said the deal could close this year, but Marcus said that date is likely to spill over into next year.

Tuesday was the deadline for public comments to be filed with the Federal Communications Commission, and some consumer groups came out against the deal, saying it will weaken competition among TV and Internet providers. Marcus, however, argues the two companies serve different markets, and the combined scale will allow it to invest more in new products, customer service and network infrastructure.

“I think at the end of the day this is a deal that will be very, very favorable to consumers,” he said.

Amid merger deals, Time Warner Cable has been rolling out a faster Internet service called TWC Maxx in Charlotte and other cities. The enhancements, which are expected to be completed here this fall, come as Google Fiber and AT&T are also installing faster networks.

“You always have to take into account what the competitive landscape looks like, but the reality is we decided we were going to start rolling out TWC Maxx long before we had any knowledge where Google’s next planned implementation of Google Fiber was,” Marcus said.

Markets with the TWC Maxx service are experiencing higher customer satisfaction and fewer customer defections, he said. The service provides speeds up to 300 megabits per second, but Google and AT&T’s 1-gigabit-per-second speeds are more than three times faster.

“There is no question that over time our capacity to deliver faster speeds will continue to grow,” he said. “But I will tell you even offering 300 megabits per second our experience is that most customers don’t subscribe to those speeds.”

Time Warner Cable also already offers much higher speeds for business customers.

Time Warner Cable says it has 480,000 total customers in the Charlotte market. AT&T doesn’t disclose local numbers, and Google Fiber has yet to sign up its first accounts.

With or without a merger, Time Warner Cable faces other challenges. Americans are increasingly abandoning traditional cable for online video services, but Marcus said the company might buck that trend and add video customers for the full year.

And in American Customer Satisfaction Index rankings released in June, Time Warner Cable was at or near the bottom for cable and Internet service, although satisfaction with its Internet service improved somewhat since 2014.

The company has recently started airing ads touting the fact that it offers customers one-hour windows for scheduling service calls. But Marcus said it has actually been providing that service for a while now.

“We are working hard to improve our service,” Marcus said. “I think over the last two years we’ve taken steps that are certainly heading in that direction, but it’s a long battle and we have to keep at it.”

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker