Time Warner CableEducation and localism are big initiatives for cable giant 6/27/2004 08:00:00 PM Eastern
Several years ago, Harriet Novet, vice president of public affairs at Time Warner Cable (TWC) of New York and New Jersey, had an acute case of sticker shock when she began to look into the cost of a college education for her son.
"A lot of the good schools cost $40,000 a year or more," she says. "I was wondering how I was going to afford it when I walked into a local bank and saw application forms for scholarships for kids whose parents were bank customers."
That experience inspired Novet to set up a scholarship program for youth who live in New York and New Jersey households with a TWC connection. Now in its third year, the program gives $2,500 scholarships to 25 to 30 students a year.
Such local efforts, which are frequently focused on education, are the centerpiece of Time Warner's public-service strategy. "The strength of our market position is that we are local," says Bonnie Hathaway, vice president of public affairs. "We have 34 divisions across the country. We can't possibly know what is right for each community."
TWC brags about its its National Teacher Award, in which the company annually lauds 30 teachers from across the nation with a special ceremony in Washington. As part of the gathering, the teachers get to meet their congressmen.
TWC estimates it gave more than $77 million in cash and in-kind contributions to local communities. Hathaway says, though, that may be a low figure.
The contributions can have a considerable impact on local communities. For example, Time Warner Cable Albany contributed more than $5.7 million in cash and in-kind support to the communities it served in 2002 and 2003, notes Peter M. Taubkin, vice president of government relations and public affairs at the division.
If you compare what we do in local communities with the fact that our competition [DBS providers] contributes zero dollars, it's really a day-and-night comparison," Taubkin says. "We operate [in an Upstate New York area] that has a lot of distressed communities," he adds, "that really need the kind of help we are providing. "
The Albany division created 30-second PSAs in which local charities explain the support they received from TWC's monetary aid. Taubkin says, "Those video testimonials are a button we are pushing to show our commitment to local communities."