Cablevision to build wireless network

Could cost the company more than $1 billion

Cablevision Systems will spend $350 million on building a wireless broadband network, management said Thursday, a day after other cable companies unveiled a wireless venture with Sprint and Clearwire.

Together with announced and possible acquisitions, this could cost the company more than $1 billion.

But asked about overall capital plans, CEO James Dolan wouldn't rule out dividends and stock buybacks, which analysts have hoped for, and further acquisitions. "We are inherently a growth company," he said, emphasizing Cablevision is looking at all its options.

Dolan, whose family controls the cable operator, remained mum when asked about reports that the firm submitted the highest bid -- at $650 million -- in the auction for Tribune's Newsday. News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said late Wednesday that he is confident to win the newspaper in Cablevision's Long Island backyard.

Cablevision announced a $496 million deal to acquire the Sundance Channel on Wednesday.

COO Tom Rutledge said that the new wireless network should be completed within two years. Existing customers will be able to access it for free, which will "enhance our service and cement our relationship with customers for the long haul," he argued.

Cablevision reported first-quarter results that exceeded Wall Street estimates on an unexpected gain of 2,000 basic cable subscribers despite continuing competition from Verizon's FiOS TV service.

The company posted a loss of $31.6 million, up from $26.3 million a year ago, partly caused by a $105 million loss on derivative contracts. Revenue rose 10.1% to $1.7 billion.

Joshua Sapan, president and CEO of Cablevision's Rainbow Media cable networks unit, gave little new color on plans for the Sundance Channel besides signaling his team sees more financial upside from boosting revenue than saving on the cost side.
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