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Cablevision Bounces Back

Alan Breznick
2/26/2014
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Rebounding from a lousy third quarter, Cablevision finished 2013 with renewed broadband subscriber growth and lower video customer losses, both of which beat Wall Street projections. (See Cablevision Hits the Wall.)

Surprising analysts who had expected another down quarter, Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) reported Wednesday that it added 6,000 high-speed data subscribers in the quarter after shedding 13,000 in the third quarter. As a result, it closed out 2013 with nearly 2.8 million broadband customers -- an increase of 17,000 for the year.

Likewise, the fifth-largest US MSO performed better than expected on the video front. It lost 18,000 basic cable subscribers in the fourth quarter after shedding 37,000 in the third. Consequently, it ended the year with about 2.81 million video customers -- down about 80,000 for the year.

Voice customers held steady over the fourth quarter at nearly 2.3 million. For the year, it picked up 8,000 phone customers.

Despite the better-than-expected fourth-quarter numbers, Cablevision posted overall customer declines for both the quarter and the year, due to the continued erosion of its video base. Its total customer count dropped 7,000 for the quarter and 42,000 for the year to below 3.2 million at the end of 2013.

However, a year after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc with its operations, Cablevision executives still expressed satisfaction with the company's performance. Thanks to price increases and a scaling back of promotional discounts, fourth-quarter adjusted net revenue climbed 2.3% from a year earlier to $1.6 billion. Adjusted cashflow grew 7.5% to $457 million.

Executives also credited the financial gains to efforts to cut subscriber churn through improved customer service, more effective truck rolls, and operating efficiencies. "We're pleased with the impact on subscriber movement inside the base," CEO James Dolan told analysts on the company's earnings call Wednesday morning. "We have happier customers, and customers that want to stay with us."

Cablevision highlighted continuing progress on the WiFi front. The MSO has already deployed more than 100,000 public WiFi hotspots throughout the New York metro area. Now it is installing more powerful smart routers in broadband customers' homes and focusing on better connectivity within those homes. (See Cable Wi-Fi on a Hot Streak.)

With the deployment of routers that create their own "community hotspots" inside the home, Dolan said, Cablevision in "on track" to hit 1 million WiFi access points by yearend. Though the company is not yet ready to try monetizing its investment in WiFi, that time is coming. (See Top 10 Carrier WiFi Movers & Shakers and Cablevision WiFi Rides NJ Rails.)

"We think connectivity is the most important product to customers," he said. "We think there will be growth opportunities inside of that."

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/27/2014 | 10:56:10 PM
Re: Voice
That's my problem. Cablevision has essentially a monopoly in the area (FiOS is still not in a lot of places & Verizon "Hi-speed" stinks). You would think they'd have good enough training to get their CSRs ready. But I've seen their inner-workings a few times. All they care about at the end of the day is how many calls reps take, not issues resolved.
jabailo
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jabailo,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 5:11:12 PM
Re: Voice
NYC is not one of those cities 


Yes it's amazing, some of the biggest downtowns do not have the most advanced technology. For example, I live in Kent, WA, about 20 miles southeast of Seattle.  I have tons of options including Wimax and optical fiber.  But in Seattle itself, optical fiber is not available!  Maybe this is more a commentary on the continuing obsolescence of the cities and rise of the suburbs.  Still anyone with a 4G (and soon 5G) phone has wireless high speed broadband.   I can get 4G LTE in some areas near me on my Virgin Mobile phone.   So anyone who has a cell carried with a hotspot feature has wireless broadband, assuming they have reasonable rates for streaming video.

 
majortom1981
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majortom1981,
User Rank: Lightning
2/27/2014 | 2:39:04 PM
Re: Voice
NYC is not one of those cities and google said they will never be deploying in the NYC area so cablevision doesnt have to worry about google. they also dont have to worry about fios either because verizon stated no more rollouts. HUGE chunks of long island dont have fios.
Phil_Britt
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Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 11:24:26 AM
Re: Voice
I think that's the case with most cable companies and customer service. I'm not in Cablevision territory. I'm with a relatively small provider that could provide better service, but it's still better than my only other cable choice -- Comcast -- based on customers I know with the latter's "service." It seems the larger the cable companies get, the more customers become simply numbers.
jabailo
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jabailo,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/26/2014 | 10:40:23 PM
Re: Voice
We'll know after this happens!

 

Google prepares 34-city push for ultra-fast Fiber service

Google Inc is exploring a major expansion of its super-fast "Fiber" TV and Internet service, which could extend the nascent network to 34 more US cities and pose a competitive threat to home broadband providers.

Google executives told reporters on Wednesday the search company has reached out in recent weeks to cities from nine metropolitan areas around the country, including San Jose, Atlanta and Nashville, to discuss the feasibility of building out Fiber, which Google says delivers the Internet at speeds up to 100 times faster than average networks.

albreznick
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albreznick,
User Rank: Blogger
2/26/2014 | 9:08:00 PM
Re: Voice
Wow. So how much longer do you give cable technology? 
albreznick
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albreznick,
User Rank: Blogger
2/26/2014 | 9:05:36 PM
Re: "dead end"
Yep, Karl. I wonder about that too. It doesn't seem like the Dolans really haver a long-term strategy right now. Maybe they're just tryingto hang on till someone decides to buy yhem out. Think Tom Rutledge might be interested?   
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/26/2014 | 9:04:55 PM
Re: Voice
Cablevision & great customer service are 2 things that do not go together. Trust me, I've been suffering for years.
jabailo
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jabailo,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/26/2014 | 7:16:01 PM
Re: Voice
Yes, it's somewhat like the British Foreign Office in 1960 once the colonies started gaining indepedence.  Not quite as much to do around the headquarters.  Cable is on track to be evicerated by Google fiber and Wimax/LTE broadband.   The fiber is already laid.  Wireless broadband only takes a few antennas to cover many square miles.  How can thick rat warrens of cable using a network designed for one way transmission of video compete?   Maybe some smart guy with figure out software that boosts its capabilitles to 10Gpbs.   But is that physically possible?
smkinoshita
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smkinoshita,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/26/2014 | 7:08:56 PM
Re: Voice
@FakeMitchWagner:  They could be charging more, but if it's true and they did improve customer service then they might also be providing a service that matches the price.  Great customer service can go a long way -- I'm loyal to a small business that sells computers and parts because they have fantastic customer service and I know I can trust them, even if their prices may be higher.
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