Charter's Rutledge: Merger with TWC would not 'meaningfully change' programming talks

Talking openly about a prospective merger with Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) President and CEO Tom Rutledge told New York media investors Wednesday that such a deal would be "opportunity driven" and not propelled by the desire to achieve scale for programming negotiations.

"Programming scale is hard to reach," he told interviewer Craig Moffett at the MoffettNathanson Media & Technology Conference. "I said it when we went after Time Warner Cable originally, I don't know if our leverage would meaningfully change."

Rutledge said a key benefit would be the ability to invest in technology, which is increasingly a differentiator in a competitive pay-TV business.  "It would change R&D," he said. 

Rutledge was also asked about his reaction to Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) CEO James Dolan's open invitation, rendered on an INTX panel last week, to purchase his company. 

"I think Jim Dolan is right. The New York market should be consolidated," said Rutledge, a former Cablevision executive. "When you work at Cablevision, every six months or so there's a rumor going around that you've been sold. But strategically, it makes a lot of sense."

Addressing a wide range of topics that his colleague, Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts, talked about several hours previously, Rutledge said Charter is seeking to match Comcast's aggressive rollout of it X1 platform with even faster deployment of the cloud-based Spectrum Guide.

Charter hopes to have its complete video footprint outfitted with the cloud-based pay-TV interface by the end of 2016. A concentrated push to do that will begin this summer, Rutledge said.

On the topic of DOCSIS 3.1 deployment, Rutledge said it's "architecturally on our roadmap," but added that budgeting the transition has not yet been done. "It isn't something we can do with the snap of a finger," he said. "You need all new modems, for example."

For more:
- listen to this MoffettNathanson Media & Technology Conference webcast

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