Cablers see no ad rebound on horizon

CFOs saying downturn will continue through 2009

NEW YORK -- Big cable operators don't expect improving advertising trends this year after a sluggish 2008 for them.

Speaking on Wednesday at the Deutsche Bank Media and Telecommunications Conference in Florida, Comcast Corp. CFO Michael Angelakis said: "We are not forecasting a rebound at all" for this year.

Also asked about cable operator ad trends earlier in the day, Time Warner Cable CFO Robert Marcus said: "There doesn't look to be any reprieve in sight."

Marcus also said he feels good about subscriber trends, even though they remain well below the year-ago period for the current first quarter.

He added that programming expenses will grow at a faster rate this year, partly because of higher costs of retransmission consent fees paid to broadcasters.

Meanwhile, Angelakis also gave some color on Comcast's expectations for 2009, which investors had looked for in vain in the firm's recent earnings report.

Angelakis said he expects the nation's largest cable operator to grow its revenue, operating cash flow and free cash flow this year despite the recession. Comcast also expects to grow its revenue-generating units and telephony and broadband subscribers.

However, Angelakis said the company expects to lose basic cable subscribers amid heated competition.