Light Reading
While No. 2 US MSO is accelerating plans for all-digital video and broadband speed upgrades, it's still desperately playing catchup ball.

TWC: Maxxing Out Too Late?

Alan Breznick
8/6/2014
50%
50%

Racing to boost broadband speeds and upgrade its cable systems over to all-digital video delivery before its pending takeover by Comcast, Time Warner Cable is almost desperately trying to make up for lost time.

The move prompts me to ask two big questions. First, how much catching up can it achieve during the next five or six months? And second, what took it so long to make a real commitment?

During the company's recent second-quarter earnings call, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) executives laid out plans to extend the operator's TWC Maxx initiative to at least a third major US market before the end of the year: In addition to rolling out TWC Maxx in New York and Los Angeles, the MSO is now prepping to launch the program in Austin, Texas this year.

It then plans to extend the program to seven more markets -- Charlotte, Dallas, Hawaii, Kansas City, Raleigh, San Antonio and San Diego -- by the end of 2015.

Under that much-ballyhooed TWC Maxx program, TW Cable is upgrading its video systems to all-digital delivery in each target market. It's also boosting its top broadband speeds to 300 Mbit/s in each market, as well as upgrading its customer service and installation operations.

Besides accelerating the deployment of TWC Maxx, Time Warner Cable is furiously rolling out its new cloud-based programming guide throughout its regions, placing in nearly 6 million digital cable set-tops, or about 40% of its set-top box base. Plus, the MSO is expanding its TV Everywhere app to more video platforms, such as FanTV.

There's no question that these are all smart moves. While such other major US MSOs as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) and even long-time laggard Charter Communications Inc. have all committed to all-digital upgrades, broadband speed increases and advanced cloud-based guides and video services, TWC has generally lagged well behind its counterparts.

As a result, TWC has been losing basic video customers by the boatload for years, while struggling to make significant gains in broadband and voice subs. In 2013 alone, for example, the company shed an astounding 825,000 video customers, which is more than most cable companies have in total.

Under the more aggressive leadership of new Chairman & CEO Rob Marcus, TW Cable officials are gamely battling to stem those losses. But TWC still lost 152,000 video subscribers and 34,000 overall residential customers in the spring quarter, while netting just 67,000 broadband and 69,000 voice customers. Although it was actually the MSO's best second quarter in four years, that's not saying much, given the company's heavy video customer losses and lackluster high-speed data and VoIP sub gains in previous springs.

Putting up a brave front, TWC executives insist they have turned their big ship around and are heading in the right direction again. Citing a lower volume of customer complaints and higher usage of their new video and broadband products, they say the customer metrics are beginning to reflect that progress as well. (See TWC Cuts Video Losses, Boosts Data Gains.)


For more of Light Reading's coverage of cable and video services trends, visit our video services content channel.


I believe they're probably right: If this combination of smarter strategy and better execution has worked well for Comcast and Charter, there's no reason why it shouldn't work for TWC as well, at least in theory.

But why did it take so painfully long for TW Cable execs to make the right moves, which seemed to be obvious to everybody but them? Why did it take the near-doomsday threat of a hostile takeover by Charter and the dark lord, John Malone, to make them change course? Just what were they waiting for?

And, with Comcast getting ready to swallow up most of TWC's systems and carve up the rest for Charter, all these last-minute initiatives may not matter all that much in the end. TWC Maxx could rapidly fade into cable history as Comcast and Charter put their own respective upgrade programs into play.

Too bad TW Cable officials didn't make all these moves two, three or four years ago. If they had, they might still have had a company to run next year.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

(3)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/8/2014 | 6:49:00 PM
Re: Timing
mhhf1ve - I rememer something a CEO said at a previous company when the business was under a lot of turmoil: Keep moving forward, keep firing your weapon. I didn't love the military metaphor, but I appreciate the sentiment. 

Like many people, I worked in fast food restaurants when I was in college. I learned something very valuable about jobs then: Whatever's going on in the corporate level, when you've got a long line of people queued up for breakfast, they gotta be fed. 
mhhf1ve
50%
50%
mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/6/2014 | 2:21:41 PM
Re: Timing
If the merger falls through... I suppose TWC has some kind of backup plan in motion. 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/6/2014 | 1:37:51 PM
Timing
I wonder whether the timing has anything to do with the acquisition. 
More Blogs from Breznick Unbound
As expected, US cable broadband subscribers pass cable video subs for the first time in latest report from Leichtman Research Group.
In yet another attempt to conquer the TV set, Google is launching its Android TV operating system for the big video screen. But will it succeed where other attempts have failed?
In the latest edition of its Visual Networking Index (VNI) study, Cisco forecasts that HD and Ultra HD video will account for nearly two-thirds of all IP video traffic by 2018.
Seven new cable products take the stage this year, covering a wide range of the technology spectrum.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Custom TV
Using Service Quality to Drive WiFi Monetization

10|22|14   |   6:51   |   (0) comments


Live from the SCTE conference: Heavy Reading's Alan Breznick explores the forces shaping the WiFi opportunity in an interview with CableLabs' Justin Colwell and Amdocs' Ken Roulier.
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed Access Architectures – 2

10|21|14   |   8:51:00 AM   |   (0) comments


ARRIS CTO Network Solutions Tom Cloonan discusses why many if not most MSOs will continue with integrated CCAP, while addressing why some are also looking at two futuristic, distributed access architectures: Remote PHY and Remote CCAP.
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed Access Architectures – 1

10|21|14   |   9:01   |   (0) comments


SCTE Sr. Director of Engineering Dean Stoneback discusses the pros and cons of distributed access architecture (DAA) and its various forms, which range from basic Remote PHY to full CMTS functionality in the node.
LRTV Custom TV
The WiFi Road to Riches – 2

10|21|14   |   3:58   |   (0) comments


ARRIS Senior Solution Architect Eli Baruch talks about how MSOs can enable public and community WiFi through 1) outdoor access points, 2) businesses seeking to offer WiFi to customers, and 3) residential WiFi gateway extensions.
LRTV Custom TV
The WiFi Road to Riches – 1

10|21|14   |   10:15   |   (0) comments


SCTE Director of Advanced Technologies Steve Harris discusses WiFi deployments, drivers, challenges and advances, including 802.11ac, carrier-grade WiFi, community WiFi, Hotspot 2.0, Passpoint, WiFi-First and voice-over-WiFi.
LRTV Custom TV
Advantech Accelerates 100G Traffic Handling

10|17|14   |   7:56   |   (0) comments


Paul Stevens from Advantech explains why handling 100GbE needs a whole new platform design approach and how Advantech is addressing the needs of equipment providers and carriers to give them the flexibility and performance they will need for SDN and NFV deployment.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Holland's Imtech Traffic & Infra Discusses Huawei's ICT Solution and Services

10|16|14   |   4:49   |   (0) comments


Dimitry Theebe is from the business unit at Imtech Traffic & Infra which delivers communications solutions for transportations. His partnershp with Huawei began about a years ago. In this video, Theebe speaks more about this partnership and what he hopes to accomplish with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Comprehensive Storage Solutions Vital for SVR

10|16|14   |   6:16   |   (0) comments


SVR Information Technology provides cloud services for academic and special sectors. With Huawei's support, SVR and Yildiz Technical University has established Turkey's largest and most advanced High Performance Computing system. CSO Ismail Cem Aslan talks about what he hopes Huawei's OceanStor storage system will bring for him.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Mexico's Servitron's Impression of Huawei at CCW 2014

10|16|14   |   6:35   |   (0) comments


Servitron is a network operator in Mexico that has been in the trunking industry for the past 20 years. Its COO, Ing. Ragnar Trillo O., explains at Critical Communications World 2014 that his company has been interested in the long-term evolution of LTE technology and its adoption for TETRA.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building a Better Dubai

10|16|14   |   2:06   |   (0) comments


Abdulla Ahmed Al Falasi is the director of commercial affairs, a telecommunications coordinator for the government of Dubai. Their areas of service span across multiple industries, including police, safety, shopping malls and more. In this video, Abdulla talks about his department's work with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Lights Up Malaysia Partner Maju Nusa

10|16|14   |   1:59   |   (0) comments


Malaysia's Maju Nusa is an enterprise partner to Huawei in networking, route switches and telco equipment. At this year's Critical Communications World in Singapore, CTO Pushpender Singh talks about what Huawei's eLTE solutions mean to his company and for Malaysia.
LRTV Custom TV
Evolving From HFC to FTTH Networks

10|15|14   |   2:19   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Todd McCrum delves into the future of cable's HFC plant, examining how DOCSIS 3.1 and advanced video compression will extend its life and how the IP video transition will usher in GPON and EPON over FTTH.
Upcoming Live Events
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Analysts Warn of Major NFV Gaps
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 10/22/2014
Is Health the Killer App for the IoT?
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 10/22/2014
Drones Hover Over the IoT Sector
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 10/23/2014
Roku Raises $25M, But for What?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 10/23/2014
1959 Newsreel: Make Phone Calls – From Cars!
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/24/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed