Chief Operating Officer, Time Warner Cable: Landel Hobbs

Landel Hobbs loves that the cable
industry is constantly in flux. “I like the
competition. Every morning I come in
to work and something has changed.
We have to change our approach
nearly every day,” says Hobbs, Time
Warner Cable chief operating officer.

As COO, Hobbs oversees all of the cable giant’s
operations, but he’s especially focused on how Time
Warner Cable is serving its customers.

“Historically, cable has been a one-size-fits-all environment,
offering one product for people to buy
regardless of what their interests are,” says Hobbs,
who has commissioned a great deal of research to
better understand Time Warner Cable’s customers. “Now we’ve segmented our customer base and are
developing products and services by segment. Going
forward, we want to make sure that our customers
are delighted.

For example, TWC research found that customers
who record their television programming using
digital video recorders tend to be bigger consumers
of cable services and will likely be interested in
what else the company has to offer. “Mobile millennials, ” as Hobbs terms them, do not like to be
tethered to either their phones or their television
sets, so services must be tailored to meet those specific needs.

This marks a change in mindset for the cable
industry, but competition from satellite, telco and
over-the-top video providers makes it more important
than ever for cable companies to stand out from
the pack.

“Customers are telling us they want access to
content anytime, anywhere and on any device,”
says Hobbs. “We need to deliver that experience
to them.

To accomplish that, Hobbs is highly focused on
all of Time Warner Cable’s marketing and branding

“Branding is important because it’s a highly
competitive world,” he says. “No matter what new
product we come up with, someone is going to copy
it, and quickly. You differentiate yourself by delivering
a stellar customer experience and by attaching
a brand to that experience.

Hobbs, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, is a graduate
of Angelo State University in San Angelo,
Texas. He began his professional life as a finance
man, working as a senior manager with KPMG Peat
Marwick in Chicago from 1984 to 1990, then as
senior VP and audit director for Bank One Illinois
Corp. until 1993.

He joined
the cable industry when he
was hired by Turner Broadcasting
System as senior VP,
controller and chief accounting
officer in 1993.
One of Hobbs’ co-workers
at KPMG, who was based in
Atlanta, called him up one
day to say that  “we’re looking
for some guys who have
a disciplined financial background
to come work in the entertainment industry,”
Hobbs recounts.

At the time he was living in Chicago, and moving
to Atlanta to work for some fly-by-night company
wasn’t appealing to him. He turned down the offer
more than once. But his coworker was persistent and
Turner brass was impressed, so they kept coming
back to him.

“I started researching the opportunity and thought ‘Hmm, this [Turner founder] Ted [Turner] guy is kind
of interesting. ’ Banking was becoming overregulated,
so I finally took a flyer and moved from Chicago to
Atlanta. It was the best move I ever made,” he says.

Hobbs remained at Turner until 2000, then became
VP of financial analysis and operations support for
Time Warner, which had acquired Turner in 1996. He
moved to New York and oversaw budgeting, financial
forecasting and profit improvement for Time Warner’s entertainment divisions, including AOL, Warner
Bros., Time Warner Cable, Warner Music, Time Inc.,
HBO, Turner Broadcasting, New Line Cinema and
the WB network.

From there, Hobbs quickly moved over to Time
Warner Cable, where in 2001 he was named executive
VP and chief financial officer. He’s been in his
current position since 2005, marking nearly 17 years
in the cable industry and nearly 10 with Time Warner.
He’s married to Chris, and the couple has three young

He’s more of a people person than his financial
background might indicate, says Ellen East, Time Warner
Cable head of corporate communications. “I think
that because he’s kind of a regular guy from Texas, he
relates to people really well. He intuitively understands
that you have to talk to different consumers in different
ways. What you feel with Landel is that his interest in
people is very authentic.”

Hobbs says his transition from CFO to COO was
a smooth one. “I was never a hardcore analytics
type person,” he says. “I always had to understand
the business first, and then I could put the numbers
with it and understand what was happening financially.
And I’ve always been a big relationship person.
Making sure we have the right talent is another
big thing that I do day-to-day.”

Hobbs is just as good at managing change as he
is at managing people, says Wayne Pace, who has
known Hobbs for 20 years in various iterations, including
as boss, co-worker and now Time Warner
Cable board member.

“Landel is a really good change agent. He’s done
that everywhere he’s been,” says Pace. “He’s been
in very difficult situations where things needed to
be changed, and he’s been able to put a team together
to create a workable plan to improve that
situation. Right now, he’s working hard with the
rest of the management team to change the way the
company thinks about the way they develop products
and services.”

Hobbs may thrive on change, but he also works
hard to stay in front of it. “The biggest challenge for us at Time Warner Cable
is staying on top of our game,” says Hobbs. “We
have to stay abreast of technology and remain highly
sophisticated in our marketing. We also have to
stay in touch with our customers and deliver them a
different experience. If we don’t, someone else will
crack that code.”

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.