Time Warner Cable has long had a rotten reputation, but now that the cable company is facing a takeover from rival Charter Communications, executives are promising that they're working to turn TWC around. A big part of that plan involves significantly upgrading its services in New York and Los Angeles under a new brand by the end of the year.
The company unveiled the plan during an unusual 90-minute earnings call on Thursday. The new service is tentatively called "TWC Maxx" and the end result, according to the company, is that internet speeds will be bumped across the board. Time Warner Cable's "standard" tier will increase from a dismal 15 / 1 Mbps connection to 50 / 5, and "turbo" will go from 20 / 2 to 100 / 10 Mbps. For those with a real need for bandwidth, the "ultimate" tier will max out at 300 / 20 Mbps.
Speed increases (without corresponding fare hikes) are always welcome, but the real issue that many TWC customers have faced are inconsistent speeds. Hopefully, the company's "revitalization" plan will address this: in a press release, TWC says it will go through and analyze each and every connection site (or hub). These hubs serve as an access point for modems to access the network, and when they're overloaded by activity in the area, performance drops. Work is starting first in West Hollywood and Costa Mesa, California, as well as parts of Woodside, Queens, and Staten Island. Beyond network improvements, the company says it'll make sure customers in Maxx areas have new modems and wireless gateways. Maxx improvements are scheduled to be completed in LA and NYC by the end of the year, with 75 percent of TWC's total coverage area upgraded by 2015 and 2016.
"With TWC Maxx, we’re going to essentially reinvent the TWC experience market-by-market."
Newly-minted CEO Robert Marcus added on the earnings call that Maxx means "more reliable, better quality video, all digital signals and better, newer HD set-top boxes." That includes continuing the rollout of a "cloud" TV guide that — finally — offers a faster, native 16:9 HD interface. And they're going to offer a new box with 1TB of storage and six different tuners.
Lastly, the plan calls for improved customer service. Marcus said during the call that "the fact is that no one in the communication services space gets great marks for service — we intend to be the first." The rebranding might work side-by-side with these changes. The new name for the residential cable services is reminiscent of Comcast's "Xfinity" brand and Cablevision's "Optimum" service, and it's likely designed to show that it's a different and better TWC than you knew before.
The news follows a rough year for Time Warner Cable. The company's subscriber numbers were described by the CFO as "dismal." It lost 833,000 cable TV subscribers over the year compared to 532,000 the year prior — a result which was due in part to a spat with CBS. Rival Charter made a public bid for the company earlier this month, and alongside the offer executives like COO John Bickham trashed TWC's management, saying that they "failed to be a competitive company." Part of the criticism targeted the firm's limited technology investments. TWC thinks Charter's bid undervalues the company, and the CEO said that Charter's executives "see a chance to force a trade before the public realizes what we can achieve with our standalone plan." In either case, it seems the takeover attempt has pushed TWC to be more aggressive with its network upgrades.