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What's Next for Time Warner Cable?

It was a busy day for Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC  ) , the second-biggest player in the cable industry. And the major event for the company wasn't, as you might expect, its quarterly results, but rather the fact that we now know that it's about to leave its parental nest.

So, let's look quickly at the company's results for the quarter before discussing its future. For the period, it earned $242 million, or $0.25 per share, vs. $276 million, or $0.28 per share, in the first quarter of 2007. But to compare like types of fruit, the earlier quarter included a gain from the distribution of Texas and Kansas City Cable Partners, LP's assets, in which Time Warner Cable had a 50% interest. The result was an extra $81 million, or approximately $0.08 a share, for the period. And in the 2008 quarter, the company sold an investment, which generated a whole additional penny.  Adjusting for these one-time items turns an earnings drop into an earnings increase.

It now appears that Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) is ready to spin off its approximately 84% stake in the cable company. Admittedly, we're short of details on how the deal will go down, but I'd venture that we'll have a simple present of cable shares made to the parent's shareholders, who have watched their company's market value slide by about a third in less then 18 months.

But since investment is inherently a forward-looking exercise, let's crawl out on a proverbial limb and think about what might follow the separation of the two Time Warners. My strong feeling, which I've held for a while now, is that Cablevision (NYSE: CVC  ) and Time Warner Cable are destined for marriage, and the spin-off will permit them to begin planning their nuptials.

Think about it: Cablevision operates largely in western Connecticut, Westchester County of New York, Long Island, much of non-Manhattan New York City, and parts of northern New Jersey. Time Warner Cable holds most of the Manhattan cable franchise. What a strong hand-in-glove combination the two would make from an operating and marketing perspective!

Let's stay tuned and see how this one plays out. In the meantime, Time Warner Cable's 896,000 revenue-generating units (RGUs) added during the quarter were impressive and should allay some fears about the company's ability to fend off competition from the likes of telcos Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and AT&T (NYSE: T  ) , or satellite providers DirecTV (NYSE: DTV  ) and Dish (Nasdaq: DISH  ) .

So, Fools, I'm not at all shy about singing the praises of Time Warner Cable. Along with industry leader Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA  ) , it may currently constitute the optimum way to participate in the media sector.

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