Cablevision, Charter up in Q1

Cable operators boost financials, advanced subs

NEW YORK -- Two major U.S. cable operators on Thursday reported better first quarter-financials driven by customer gains, especially in advanced cable services, and higher advertising revenue, among other things.

Cablevision Systems posted a first-quarter profit of $74.2 million, up from $21.0 million in the year-ago period, on a 5.2% revenue gain to $1.75 billion.

Meanwhile, Charter Communications gained further momentum after emerging from bankruptcy late last year. The company swung to a $24 million profit in the first quarter from a year-ago loss of $205 million, helped particularly by lower interest expense and tax benefits. Revenue rose 4.5% to $1.74 billion.

Advertising revenue for cable operators have been on the rise this year across the board, and Thursday's results fit into the trend.

Charter reported a 9.3% ad gain, and Cablevision recorded even a 35.1% jump.

In addition, Cablevision's cable networks also brought in more advertising. AMC, WE tv and IFC reported an 11.6% increase. The Rainbow programming unit overall saw a 6.3% revenue and 12.6% operating profit gain.

Cablevision added 900 basic cable subscribers in the first quarter, while Charter lost 23,400.

Both continued to grow advanced cable services users.

Charter added 95,800 digital video subscribers, 103,700 high-speed Internet customers and 66,900 telephony users. In the same categories, the smaller Cablevision won 12,000, 42,600 and 42,300 users, respectively.

Based on its strength, Cablevision increased its quarterly dividend by 25% to 12.5 cents per share.

On its earnings call, Cablevision management was asked how subscribers reacted to the ABC and Scripps carriage deal showdowns earlier this year that left users without some popular programs for a bit.

"Consumers don't like it," said COO Tom Rutledge. "I think we messaged our position well to customers, and customers appreciate that they are paying for programming through their cable service. Historically, it's been difficult for cable companies to communicate their position. Our success and the kinds of deals that we got with the programmers will hopefully cause other programmers not to put themselves in that same position."
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