Charter set to close on new company called 'Charter,' full transition will run through 2018

Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) expects to finally close its acquisitions of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks "within a few days" of the California Public Utilities Commission's May 12 approval vote of the deals.

Speaking at Charter's first-quarter earnings call today, company President and CEO Tom Rutledge said the newly combined company will simply be named "Charter." Field operations will cover 11 regional zones, mostly managed by the same regional staffers across the three companies.

Customer care will be migrated to Charter's virtualized system based on U.S.-based representatives. The conversation of pricing and packaging of acquired customers to the Charter Spectrum brand will follow the transition to two-way digital cable across the entire New Charter footprint of 36 million passings — a process that likely won't be completed until the end of 2018, Rutledge said.

In its current markets, Charter expects to have its cloud-based video interface, Spectrum Guide, completely rolled out by the end of this year.

The details come after the FCC announced earlier this week that it is circulating an approval order for Charter's proposed acquisitions. The Justice Department and California PUC are also close to approving the transactions.

For the first quarter, Charter added 15,000 video subscribers, versus a loss of 12,000 in the same quarter last year, sustaining customer momentum growth that's currently being enjoyed by Charter and the broader cable industry. 

Broadband subscribers grew by 155,000 customers compared to a gain of just 135,000 in the year-ago time period. 

Overall, Charter's first-quarter revenue grew by 7.1 percent to $2.5 billion, beating consensus forecasts from analysts. 

Asked about several proposals currently being weighed by the FCC that could directly impact the cable business, Rutledge said new regulations meant to relieve pay-TV customers of burdensome set-top leasing costs shouldn't target Charter. 

"We don't charge for modems and try to keep our box prices low, and we also have made our applications available on other set-tops consumers can purchase," he said. 

For the FCC "Unlock the Box" proposal, he added, "control of copyright and privacy are real issues, and we think they should be protected."

Meanwhile, regarding the FCC's special access proposal, which could regulate rates cable operators charge commercial customers, Rutledge noted that the cable business is less than 10 percent penetrated into the business services sector. 

"It seems premature to thing about regulating such a new entrant into the marketplace," he said. 

For more:
- visit Charter's investor relations site

Special report: Tracking pay-TV earnings in Q1 2016

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