New Challenges for Cable TV

December 4, 2012 Updated Dec 4, 2012 at 8:41 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by Annlee Ellingson, Los Angeles Business Journal

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December 4, 2012 Updated Dec 4, 2012 at 8:41 AM EDT

Time Warner Cable plans to hire as many as 40 full-time field technicians at its technical operations centers in Dayton and Kettering.

Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt had strong words for programmers on Monday, warning that the increased rates pay-TV giants are paying for channel carriage deals could force distributors to dump weaker-performing cable networks. Britt's remarks, reported in the Hollywood Reporter and elsewhere, came at the 40th annual UBS Global Media and Communications Conference.

Time Warner is the predominant cable TV franchise for Upstate and Western New York.

Since 2008, he said, TWC's (NYSE: TWC) programming cost per customer has risen 30 percent and its video services have gone up 15 percent while consumer prices have increased only 10 percent - a scenario he described as "out of whack."

"It's out of touch with consumers. It can't continue that way for another 10 or 20 years," Britt is quoted as saying in the Reporter. "We are going to take a hard look at each service. Services that cost too much ... we're going to drop them. Or we are going to put them on a different tier."

To date, satellite providers like DirecTV and Dish Network have made more headlines with high-profile pricing disputes with programmers, but Britt made clear TWC will consider axing lesser-watched channels that don't dominate their niches or attempt to hang on by rebranding.

"In this business, because we sell a package, we've tried to be very comprehensive," he's quoted as saying in Variety. "Over the years, we've accumulated networks that hardly anybody watches. Some are trying to reach the same audience [as] others who may do it better and be more successful. … But if you talk to the people who run these networks, they speak of it as a birthright. They say, 'Maybe this year it wasn't able to hit a big audience, but next year we'll spend more on programming and work hard and it will be good.' Sometimes they change the entire content of the network."

Britt argued that it's the deals between pay-TV providers and programmers that have to change: "We are going to have a different conversation than we had five or six or 10 years ago."

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