Time Warner’s misbegotten merger with AOL produced the behemoth ‘AOL Time Warner’ in 2000. It was a fractious marriage and the promised synergies never materialized. When Time Warner executives regained their senses and control of the company they dropped AOL from the corporate name in 2003 before finally ridding itself the business in 2009.
In this case the name was the least of Time Warner’s problems, however humiliating the unraveling may have been.
Its offspring, Time Warner Telecom, has made much heavier weather of its naming challenge.
Time Warner Telecom was originally founded as Time Warner Communications in 1993 as a joint venture between US West and Time Warner Cable, a division of Time Warner at the time. The company rapidly evolved into a business provider specializing in fiber-based last mile solutions. In July 1998, it was reorganized into Time Warner Telecom LLC and in May 1999, the company became an independent company through an IPO.
A licensing agreement with Time Warner allowed the company to use the Time Warner name until July 2006. As the deadline approached the company sought a 12 month extension of the license while it frantically searched for an alternative name.
A San Francisco branding firm came up with the interesting name of ‘Avid Networks’. It was too interesting for Avid Technology, a maker of sound-and video-editing systems. It sued to block Time Warner Telecom from using the name.
After an initial round of legal sabre-rattling Time Warner Telecom backed off to rethink and extended its licensing agreement with Time Warner, for a second time, to June 30, 2008. At the last gasp the company finally changed its name to the safe and anti-climactic ‘TW Telecom’ on July 1, 2008.
“TW Telecom is familiar; it is stable; it is consistent; it is clear, concise and focused — it is who we are,” said Larissa Herda, company CEO, president and chairwoman.
Or as the company said on it’s website to reinforce the non-change – “Twied and twue. Same twadition of service. And we are not changing a thing. Twust us”. Really.
Part of the proclaimed logic of the Time Warner Telecom name change was to avoid confusion with Time Warner Cable, which was also spun-off by Time Warner in 2009. Both offer Internet and data services to small and medium businesses. And, in some places, the two compete in the business data transport market.
Now we hear that Time Warner Cable is also considering a new name although it is under no apparent licensing pressure to do so. It has reportedly launched “Project Mercury” in an initiative to rename itself sometime during 2010.
No doubt the Project Mercury team will do its due diligence to avoid an ‘Avid’ situation when recommending a new name to the CEO.
TW Cable anyone?