Goodbye, Time Warner Cable: Charter to Retire Maligned Brand

Acquisition Includes Phased-Out Rebranding

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Employees assist a customer at a Time Warner Cable store in New York.
Employees assist a customer at a Time Warner Cable store in New York. Credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

The brand you love to hate is going away.

Time Warner Cable, which had the worst customer-service score in any industry according to a 2015 survey, won't survive Charter Communications Inc.'s acquisition. Charter will close its $55.1 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc. Wednesday, about a year after it announced the deal and more than two years after it put the New York-based cable provider in play with a hostile takeover offer.

Charter has decided to phase out the Time Warner Cable name over time, according to Alex Dudley, a company spokesman. Included in the rebranding effort is Bright House Networks LLC, the cable provider Charter bought in conjunction with Time Warner Cable last year for $10.4 billion.

"While Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks customers will not see any immediate change, the company will be called Charter and the products and services will be marketed under the 'Spectrum' brand," Dudley said in an email.

Time Warner Cable has had poor customer-service scores for years, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, or ACSI, which measures customer satisfaction for 43 industries. The cable provider's pay-TV service scored 51 out of 100, tying smaller peer Mediacom Communications Corp. for the worst overall rank in any industry.

At the same time, 2015 marked the first year of video-subscriber growth for Time Warner Cable in the last nine. The company added 32,000 cable-TV customers and 1 million high-speed internet users and its broadband product improved last year after getting the worst marks of any service provider in 2014.

"It's not surprising Charter wants to rebrand Time Warner Cable," said David VanAmburg, ACSI's managing director. "Charter has scored better than Time Warner Cable in recent years, so it could bode well for Time Warner Cable customers. But the data suggests leaps-and-bounds improvement could be difficult."

Charter's pay-TV score of 63 ranked higher than Time Warner Cable's 51 last year. Yet its 2015 broadband service score of 57 trailed Time Warner Cable's 58.

"Nobody in the cable industry performs particularly well," Ms. VanAmburg said. "One merger isn't going to change structural issues with pricing, infrastructure and battles with content providers. When there's not a great deal of competition in an industry, you're not going to get great satisfaction scores."

With the Time Warner Cable and Bright House acquisitions, Charter is taking the mantle of the country's second-largest cable operator, behind Comcast Corp. The company will absorb about 16 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in markets including New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas, and about 2.5 million Bright House customers in states like Florida, Alabama and Indiana.

"It's just the way it is, but I would love to see a change," said Arleen Kropf, a public-relations professional who has lived in Manhattan since 1992.

When Ms. Kropf moved to her current apartment in New York about a year and a half ago, a Time Warner Cable technician set up her cable service incorrectly, causing her new TV set to stop working altogether. The company later blamed it on her, she said.

"They're frustrating to deal with just like every single utility that we have to deal with."

Even celebrities have chastised Time Warner Cable's service on Twitter, including former "Star Trek" star Patrick Stewart, who in 2012 ranted that setting up a new account caused him to lose "the will to live."

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