Time Warner [TWX] CEO Dick Parsons downplayed the importance of Comcast’s [CMCSA] registration statement request, telling an investor’s conference that both companies are looking to resolve the outstanding stock issue. Parsons disputed recent accounts that TW would have to buy out Comcast’s 20% stake should the shares go unregistered, adding that his side is "making reasonable and best efforts" to do so. "That’s the extent of our obligation," he said. "There’s no overhang on our balance sheet." That bit of business aside, for the most part, investors listening in during yesterday’s Smith Barney media conference heard nothing but good news from the TW chief … especially when the topic was cable. "We’re believers in cable. We believe the cable industry will continue to consolidate and at the right price, we would like to participate." Parsons declared that by the close of ’04, the company’s cable unit will offer voice in every system, and that despite the substantial investment TWC will make in telephony, it "will still expect free cash flow growth." (One caveat: As it stands, "NY will be the last market we hit," Parsons said.) On the network side, he sang the praises of HBO and CNN, although he warned that profits at the news net would rise "with aggressive attention to cost challenges;" a curiosity, given the demands from an upcoming presidential election and the war in Iraq. Besides monetary issues, Parsons maintained that TW would meet a host of other challenges head on, including the emerging ad skipping and piracy bugaboos. "The established business models will not be overturned this year, or even the next, but change is coming."

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