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Time Warner Cable downplays Glenn Britt speculation

February 01, 2013|By Meg James
  • Time Warner Cable is tamping down speculation that its chairman and chief executive, Glenn Britt, is planning to step down at the end of the year.
Time Warner Cable is tamping down speculation that its chairman and chief… (Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg…)

Time Warner Cable has sought to downplay a report that its chief executive, Glenn Britt, was planning to leave the nation's second-largest cable company at the end of the year.

The Wall Street Journal, citing an anonymous source, said Friday that Britt had decided to depart his position of 12 years, a tenure marked by large expansion in residential cable service, technological upgrades to broadband Internet and the 2009 separation from parent company Time Warner Inc.

The 63-year-old Britt's contract was extended last year and is set to expire at the end of 2013.  However, Time Warner Cable said Friday that no decision has been made about a possible departure.

"Glenn Britt is under contract and if and when he decides to step down, there will be an announcement," a Time Warner Cable spokesman said in a statement.

Cable operators are scrambling to keep up with increased competition and rapid advances in technology. Online video services such as Netflix and Hulu are changing the way people consume their entertainment by offering cheaper, on-demand alternatives.

Meanwhile, programming expenses have skyrocketed -- costs that are passed along to consumers -- putting cable operators in an uncomfortable position of having to jettison offerings after decades of adding channels and taking for granted customer loyalty and huge profit margins.

In a bid to stay dominant, Time Warner Cable is making a more than $12-billion bet in Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest television market. Last year the cable operator launched a regional sports network to showcase the Los Angeles Lakers, in a 20-year, $6-billion deal. 

Now the New York-based company plans a new channel featuring and owned by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 20-year deal, which is reportedly is worth $7 billion to $8 billion, is awaiting approval by Major League Baseball.

Those two new sports channels could add $10 a month to the bills of cable subscribers in the region. Los Angeles would have six regional sports networks, the most of any major city in the U.S. The expansion into sports programming has opened Britt to criticism that he and his company are accelerating rising costs at least as much as sports teams and legacy programmers, including News Corp.'s Fox and Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN.

Speculation about Britt's possible departure also is being fueled by a Jan. 23 reorganization that created a more streamlined and centralized structure for Time Warner Cable.  Previously, the company had geographic operating units with different standards. Last week it carved out three distinct business units -- residential services, business services and media services -- that all report to Rob Marcus, the company's president and chief operating officer.

The reorganization suggests that Marcus is in line to succeed Britt.


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Follow Meg James on Twitter at @MegJamesLAT.

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