Charter Still Content With No Content
Sticking to its own formula for success, Charter does not plan to make any major purchases of content providers to diversify its assets and broaden its video programming.
Speaking on the company's second-quarter earnings call Tuesday morning, Charter Communications Inc. Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge said that, unlike such other US pay-TV giants as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), his company sees no need to buy a big content company. Although Charter has had its share of opportunities, he said, the proposed deals have not made sense for price and strategic reasons.
"Our views on content haven't changed," Rutledge said. "A lot of content companies have come to us and asked us to buy them." But, he noted, in most cases, "there is no direct synergy for us."
Charter is investing in regional news and sports channels, however. In its latest move on that front, the MSO plans to launch a 24-hour news channel in Los Angeles, similar to its long-running NY1 news channel in New York City. That has prompted speculation that Charter might be interested in acquiring the regional sports channel that Disney will have to sell as part of its conditions for buying many of the TV movie and assets of 21st Century Fox .
Rutledge's comments on content came as Charter reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings, reduced pay-TV subscriber losses and continued strong growth in broadband. As a result, the MSO's share price jumped in morning trading, rising about 5.7% to $310.67 as of noon ET. (See Charter Sheds 73K Video Subs in Q2, Adds 218K Internet Customers .)
Charter reported shedding 73,000 residential pay-TV subs for the period, compared with a loss of 91,000 in the year-ago period. Overall, the company lost 57,000 video customers during the spring, an improvement from its loss of 76,000 a year ago, as it added 16,000 small-and-medium-sized business video subscribers, up from 15,000 a year earlier. As a result, it closed the quarter with 16.2 million residential and 476,000 SMB video subscribers, as compared with its respective totals of 16.5 million and 423,000 a year ago.
Despite the continuing erosion of its pay-TV sub base and the continuing growth of OTT video, Rutledge said video services remain a key way of luring and retaining customers for Charter. Although the company doesn't necessarily view video as "a standalone product" any more, he said it will remain part of Charter's subscription packages for as long as he can foresee. "We are going to supply our customers with all the video they can get," he declared.
In accordance with that approach, Charter continued to upgrade its former Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks cable systems to all-digital and roll out its upgraded Spectrum video packages to those systems in the second quarter. The company closed out June with 91% of its 50.3-million-home footprint converted to all-digital service. With 6% of its legacy TWC footprint and 50% of its legacy Bright House footprint still to be upgraded to all-digital, the company intends to complete that work by year's end.
On the broadband end of the business, Charter added a healthy 218,000 residential data subscribers in the second quarter, down a bit from 230,000 net additions a year earlier. The cableco ended June with 23.1 million residential data customers, up more than 1 million from a year ago, to cement its position as the second biggest broadband provider in the land. (See Where Charter's Chugging Along... & Where It's Not.)
Over the spring months, Charter also extended DOCSIS 3.1 service to a number of new markets, boosting its coverage to 60% of its footprint from 45% at the end of March. The company plans to roll out D3.1 to nearly all its service areas by the end of the year. (We'll have more on Charter's broadband progress and plans in an upcoming story on our sister site, Broadband World News.)
Charter officials provided a brief update on their new mobile service, which launched June 30. They said the Spectrum Mobile offering -- which gives subs the option of buying an unlimited plan for $45 a month or gigabytes of data for $14/GB -- is being rolled out in phases. Plans call for broadening the array of mobile devices and allowing customers to transfer their existing handsets to Spectrum Mobile over the next few months. (See Charter's Mobile Service Details Leak.)
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading