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Time Warner Cable incoming CEO stresses better customer service

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Time Warner Cable's incoming chief executive wants to improve the pay-TV distributor's relationship with its subscribers.

Speaking Monday at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York, Rob Marcus, who succeeds Glenn Britt as chief executive of Time Warner Cable next month, repeatedly stressed the company's need to improve its customer service reputation. Marcus is currently chief operating officer of Time Warner Cable.

Like many cable companies, Time Warner Cable suffers from a perception that it is not responsive to customer needs.

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"Putting the customer at the center of everything we do" will be a priority, Marcus said, adding that "the  best customer service is when the customers don’t need to contact us at all for service." 

As for the recent speculation that Time Warner Cable is in play, Marcus declined to discuss potential offers for the company. Charter Communications is seen as the most aggressive suitor. Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications are also said to be looking at the company.

"I want to make absolutely clear, our management team is completely focused on running Time Warner Cable for the long haul," Marcus said.

Marcus reiterated that his primary goal is to increase shareholder value and that that goes for considering any potential mergers. A deal with the much smaller Charter would probably be highly leveraged.

Although Marcus went out of his way to be respectful to the departing Britt, he did stress a need for a more "performance-oriented culture" at Time Warner Cable, which has more than 12 million subscribers around the country and is the biggest distributor in New York City and Los Angeles.

"We want to create a fire in the belly from the top of the house right to the front line," Marcus said. 

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Marcus also downplayed fears among analysts that video customers are going to start cutting the cord, dropping cable in favor of online services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

"So far we really haven't seen over-the-top video as a substitute for the breadth and quality of video we sell," he said. He also noted that the demand for such services helps Time Warner Cable's broadband sales efforts.

Marcus did extend an olive branch of sorts to Netflix, saying he would consider putting online video services on the cable operator's set-top boxes. Netflix has been pushing for this as a way to make it easier for customers to access the service on their televisions.

The Dodger cable channel that Time Warner Cable is launching in partnership with the team will debut in late February, Marcus said. Time Warner Cable has yet to strike any distribution deals with other providers in the area such as DirecTV and Cox.

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Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.

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