Cable companies paint their future in a down economy

At a Wall Street investor's conference Monday, Time Warner Cable and Comcast were painting a relatively upbeat picture, but fessed up that they might end up with declining revenues in certain areas.

Time Warner Cable (TWC) CEO and President Glenn Britt was promoting the view that cable TV will benefit as people stay home, rather than going out to spend money. On the other side of the coin, DVR adoption is down - but that could be due to existing customers having already picked up the service.

Other tidbits Britt shared included a lack of taste for M&A activity and a decline in capex spending. Costs in the industry are coming from two big categories: sports retransmission and labor; TWC has had some restructuring costs due to layoffs.

While TWC has a lot of overlap with AT&T and Verizon, the company continues to take voice customers away from them "at a rapid rate."

Comcast is seeing slowing in advertising and add-on services such as pay-per-view, as well as customers calling up to ask for relief from their monthly cable bills.  But Comcast believes it will be able to soak up cost-conscious consumers with a bunch of lower-priced plans.

Customers also want reliability as well as value, so Comcast has been working on how it monitors its network and schedules its technicians. Comcast's customer satisfaction ratings are on the rise, according to the company's internal measurements.  

In 2009, Comcast technicians will have dispatch devices that let them track customer appointments throughout the day. The company is working on a feature that will allow customers to go online to find out where a tech is, so they don't have to make a phone call into Comcast.

For more:
- Time Warner Cable President sounds off. Article.
- Paidcontent.org (via Washington Post) reports on TW Cable's outlook. Post.

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