Landel C. Hobbs, Chief Operating Officer, Time Warner Cable
Landel Hobbs' HOF Speech
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 initiatives.
"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 daughters.
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