Charter Communications Executive Insights: Pricing and Packaging, Leverage

On Tuesday, Charter Communications Inc (NASDAQ:CHTR) reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Pricing and Packaging

Stefan Anninger – Credit Suisse: I’m wondering if Mr. Rutledge could maybe discuss in a bit greater detail what some of the changes to your pricing and packaging you may be considering, would you consider ever moving away from the focus on offering, for example, your single play HSD product, which you’ve been doing since I think the back half 2010? I do have one follow-up question.

A Closer Look: Charter Earnings Cheat Sheet>>

Thomas M. Rutledge – President and CEO: The most significant thing that we’re doing from a packaging perspective and from a pricing perspective is, improving our video product and adding value to our video product. Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR) has a superior network infrastructure and it hasn’t been fully taking advantage of it because of the legacy of its analog subscriber base and what we’re doing is improving the digital product we go to market with in video, so the most significant impact from a consumer perspective will be that when they buy video from Charter going forward, they’re going to get a much richer package in terms of the kind of quality of picture they get and the amount of channels they get, and they’re going to get offered that in a way that combined with the data and voice make to the compelling offer from a competitive point of view and it will be superior product to satellite, superior product to U-Verse. In the video space, it will be obviously a better data product, already is a better data product in our wireline competitors and the voice product will be more fully featured and less expensive. So, combined, it will be actually sold at a higher ARPU than we currently sell, but the value proposition for the customer will be much greater. We’ll be taking advantage of our network assets.

Stefan Anninger – Credit Suisse: I guess the follow-up question. I’ll just go back to the original question. Would you – are you still as focused, do you think going forward will you still be as focused on pushing the single-play HSD product that you had priced at about same price as it was as part of the bundle back in end of 2010 or do you think you might steer clear of doing that going forward?

Thomas M. Rutledge – President and CEO: We continue to have great success with our high-speed data product and we’ll continue to support that in the marketplace as a standalone product, but we’ll be also enhancing that market posture with additional packages.

Leverage

Bishop Cheen – Wells Fargo Securities: Your leverage continues to improve, although it seems to be as if inside five times, as you look out with all of the other projects you have going on for capital allocation, where do you think you can take the leverage a year from now or for a little wider look, say by the beginning of 2014, where would you like to have it at a stable place?

Christopher L. Winfrey – EVP and CFO: Well, I think absent providing EBITDA guidance, we remain focused on getting into our target leverage range of 4 to 4.5 times. Frankly, the timing for us getting there depends on the level of success that we are having in driving some of the initiatives that Tom was describing in the strategic opportunities that present themselves along the way. So in the meantime, our first and large priority is to protect the long-term EBITDA and cash flow generation capability of the business and that may mean investing more in OpEx and capital to go drive that kind of growth that puts you in a better steady state cash flow position, which ultimately delevers you significantly through – mechanically through EBITDA growth. So the timing of that depends not only on the long-term success, but also the upfront organic opportunities that present themselves to go invest for growth. So I don’t want to provide a guidance as to when we’re going to be hitting that as to function of the growth opportunities and other strategic opportunities that come, but it’s safe to say that we still believe that 4 to 4.5 times plus or minus a half turn periodically so it enables strategic opportunities, that 4.5 times is the right place to be for us. I hope that’s helpful.