TWC in '09: Job Cuts, WiMax & Wideband

As part of a larger cost-cutting effort, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) is in the process of eliminating 1,250 jobs, mostly in "non-customer-facing ranks," MSO COO Landel Hobbs disclosed this morning in a call to discuss fourth-quarter results. (See Time Warner Cable Subs Growth Slows in Q4 .)

He said the cuts are expected to save Time Warner Cable close to $90 million annually. A spokeswoman told Cable Digital News that the cuts, expected to occur over the "next couple of weeks," represent less than 3 percent of the MSO's overall workforce.

Last year, the MSO trimmed its organization to six regions, down from about two dozen, a move that resulted in the loss of about 500 jobs.

"Now it's time for the next step," Hobbs said today. Those cuts follow recent job reductions at Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , and Charter Communications Inc. . (See Comcast Makes Cuts Out East and Cox to Cut 460 Jobs.)

TWC is also monitoring the levels of its front-line staffing, but for now, "we believe we can match our costs to activity levels through attrition," said TWC president and CEO Glenn Britt. "But we will continue to monitor that situation closely."

TWC also expects capital expenditures to dip in 2009, but has yet to say by how much. "Looking forward, we expect 2009 capital spending to decline, both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of revenue," said Rob Marcus, the MSO's SVP and CFO. In 2008, capex came in at $3.5 billion, up $89 million versus the year before.

Clearwire, Docsis 3.0 updates
Although TWC is clearly looking for ways to cut costs this year, it does plan to "make meaningful progress in further defining our wireless strategy," Britt said, referring to the MSO's partnership with Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR). (See Cable Plays Clearwire Card.)

"We do see opportunities over time to offer a broad array of services to a variety of devices over both wired and wireless transmission technologies," he said. "As part of this, we plan to roll out an initial offering in conjunction with Clearwire in at least one city later this year."

Britt didn't go into any further detail, but a Time Warner Cable WiMax deployment in Dallas is most likely among the '09 possibilities, considering recent hiring activity Clearwire has underway in Texas. (See Clearwire on the Hiring Trail.) A launch in New York City is probably much further out. As reported by Unstrung, Clearwire has recently posted engineering-related job ads for the New York and New Jersey area, but a buildout in that region could take up to two years to complete. (See 'New' Clearwire Hires for 'New' York.)

ThinkEquity LLC anticipates that Clearwire will launch in nine markets this year. Following the first deployment in Portland, Ore., Clearwire has hinted it will offer WiMax service in Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Grand Rapids, Mich. Chicago is another possibility, but Clearwire has been discussing future deployment plans with its board and has not revealed an official roadmap yet. (See Clearwire Cloudy on Chicago and Analyst: Clearwire Will Launch Nine in '09.)

In the meantime, Time Warner Cable continues to downplay the competitive importance of Docsis 3.0, a platform that can produce shared speeds in excess of 100 Mbit/s. The MSO has already identified New York City -- a high profile Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) FiOS battleground -- as one of the first markets that will certainly get wideband. Beyond that, it hasn't revealed much else. (See Britt: Docsis 3.0 Coming to NYC.)

Hobbs said the MSO expects to deploy Docsis 3.0 in "select markets" this year.

Britt echoed that TWC is "bullish" on wideband technology, but added that the speed advantage offered by Docsis 3.0 "is largely… a marketing ploy at this point. This is more about marketing noise than about reality, in our opinion. We will play the game where we need to."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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