Cablevision, Charter Post Mixed Third-Quarter Results

James Dolan Headshot 2011
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The cable operators posted weaker bottom-line results and slight revenue gains as Cablevision lost fewer pay TV subscribers and Charter recorded a slight sub gain.

Cable operators Cablevision Systems and Charter Communications on Tuesday posted mixed third-quarter financials.

Cablevision Systems swung to a third-quarter loss as its video subscriber losses slowed compared with the year-ago period.

The cable operator, controlled by the Dolan family, posted a loss of $3.8 million, compared with a profit of $39.3 million in the year-ago period. One key factor was a loss on the extinguishment of debt related to a September debt offering, which dragged down the bottom line by $61 million, compared to a year-ago drag of only $3 million. Revenue rose 1.2 percent to $1.69 billion.

Cablevision said it lost 10,000 pay TV subscribers in the third quarter, compared with a loss of 19,000 in the year-ago period. It added 28,000 broadband and 22,000 telephony customers.

Said Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan: "The effects of last week’s storm have had a devastating impact on residents in much of our service area.  As we report our third quarter results today, Cablevision crews continue to work around the clock to restore service to our customers as quickly as possible.  Our number one challenge continues to be Cablevision households without electrical power and we are moving quickly to restore our service once power returns."

Charter Communications, meanwhile, said it signed up 1,000 new video subscribers after a year-ago decline of 4,000.

Its third-quarter loss widened slightly to $87 million from a year-ago loss of $85 million. Revenue rose 3.7 percent to $1.88 billion.

Said Charter president and CEO Tom Rutledge, the former COO of Cablevision: "We entered the quarter in a stronger competitive position from a product, pricing and service standpoint, benefiting customer trends and triple play sales. We are enhancing the foundation of our operating structure, business practices and product offerings to support sustainable growth. The investments we make in the near term lay the groundwork for increased penetration across all of our products with a greater customer lifetime value."

On a call with analysts after reporting the earnings, Rutledge also highlighted how the company's plan to go "all-digital" in the next few years will benefit the company, talking about less capital expenditures when consumers have the ability to connect cable service to their iPads and smart TVs.

Twitter: @georgszalai