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Rogers Pencils In X1 Launch for 2018

Canadian cable company Rogers is undergoing a period of significant change, but so far it looks like that change is mostly for the better.

In its latest quarterly report, Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) bested analyst earnings estimates with a performance that prompted the company's stock price to soar into record territory. The gains came from Rogers' wireless business, but there was positive news on the cable side of the house as well. Notably, customer churn was down for the fourth quarter in a row, and Rogers appears to be holding reasonably steady overall as it works on new initiatives to boost the cable business going forward.

Among those initiatives, Rogers is developing its new IPTV service based on Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s X1 video platform. The plan is to soft launch the service in early 2018, and then expand outward from there. (See also Rogers Embraces 'Comcast North' Strategy.)

"Right now, we're going through a process of methodically going from lab trial to tech trials and employee trials and soft launch and then a full launch," noted CEO Joe Natale. Though he added that, "It will take a number of years before we fully replace the entire base."

For the quarter, Rogers lost 25,000 video subscribers, but gained 11,000 Internet and 2,000 phone subs. Cable revenue was flat compared to the year previous at C$870 million (US$693 million), with Rogers benefiting from the success of its Ignite Internet offerings.

On the wireless side, Rogers reported revenue of C$2.05 billion (US$1.63 billion), up 6% from the prior year. It gained 93,000 net new postpaid wireless subscribers, and 14,000 net new prepaid subs.

All told, Rogers' total revenue for the quarter was C$3.59 billion (US$2.86 billion), matching analyst estimates, and it posted an earnings per share number of C$1.00 (US$0.80), far above analyst estimates of C$0.94 (US$0.75), according to Bloomberg. The company's stock price is up 24% on the year.

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One of the big variables on the road to success for Rogers is the company's change in leadership. Natale, a veteran of Telus, took over as CEO in April after former CEO Guy Laurence stepped down abruptly last October. Expectations have been high for Natale, and the Q2 earnings report is a positive start to his tenure. (See Rogers Says See Ya to CEO Laurence.)

In the company's earnings call, Natale emphasized several areas he wants to focus on in the business. They include customer experience, network investments, innovation to drive growth and cost efficiency.

"In short," said Natale, "we are committed to delivering an ever improving experience for our customers while we continue to focus on enhancing the fundamentals, and that is revenue growth to drive higher margins, profit, free cash flow and return on investment as these are the key drivers of shareholder value."

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

KBode 7/21/2017 | 2:01:23 PM
Netflix... Curious if they'll follow in Comcast's heels and put Netflix on their iteration of the X1? Or is that going to be a Comcast only phenomenon?
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