Rob Marcus, incoming CEO of Time Warner Cable, said the cable company is “open” to offering Netflix on its set-top boxes — but in the same breath, he touted the MSO’s ability to offer a more robust video offering on multiple devices.
The remarks by Marcus, who spoke Monday at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference in New York, highlight the ambivalence that big pay-TV companies have on the question of whether Netflix is ultimately complementary or competitive.
Asked about the prospect of TW Cable adding over-the-top services like Netflix, Marcus responded that “we’re certainly open to it.”
But, he noted, one of the things consumers have found attractive about Netflix is that its service is accessible on multiple devices. And Time Warner Cable has “been out there on the forefront of making our video available on an increasing number of IP-enabled devices.”
“When TWC TV is on Roku, it’s sitting right next to Netflix,” Marcus said.
The cable operator’s online-video service, TWC TV, provides access to 300-plus live TV channels and 5,000 hours of video-on-demand in the home on five platforms: Apple iOS and Android devices, personal computers, Samsung Smart TVs and Roku set-tops.
TW Cable will be announcing a sixth device platform in the next week or two, Marcus added. The cable company reportedly has been in discussions with Apple to add the streaming-video service to the Apple TV device.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has acknowledged his interest in cutting distribution deals with U.S. operators, after inking similar pacts with the U.K.’s Virgin Media and other European providers. “I’m really hopeful we can do that with both Comcast and other people in the industry,” Hastings said on the company’s Oct. 21 earnings call.
Comcast, for its part, similarly sees potential value in wrapping Netflix into a unified video service — but execs have said there’s no burning urgency to do so.
“Our customers can receive Netflix in a number of ways, so it’s not really a high priority for us,” Comcast Cable president and CEO Neil Smit said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call.
Also at the UBS conference, Marcus complained that his comments in an interview last week with Bloomberg were taken “out of context.” The report’s headline said Marcus was “ready to sell” Time Warner Cable if the price tag were high enough and quoted him as saying, “I am the perfect guy to manage the M&A component out there.”
On Monday, Marcus — who didn’t dispute the accuracy of the comments attributed to him — sought to clarify that he and the company’s management team are focused on running the company, not selling it. “Whether or not Time Warner Cable will participate in M&A is, and always has been, 100% driven by what’s in the best interests of our shareholders,” Marcus said at the UBS confab.
Time Warner Cable has been eyed as a potential takeover target by several big cable peers. According to reports, Charter Communications — together with John Malone’s Liberty Media, which owns a minority stake in Charter — Comcast and Cox Communications have reportedly been in various stages of evaluating deals to acquire or merge with Time Warner Cable. TW Cable would likely accept a bid of $150-$160 per share, Bloomberg reported last week, citing an anonymous source.
Marcus is set to become CEO in January following the retirement this month of Glenn Britt.