Cablevision Executive: Pay TV Consolidation Doesn't Impact Company Much

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CFO Gregg Seibert at an investor conference in London said deals are "probably a positive for the industry as a whole" and also faced questions about rising programming costs and Aereo.

LONDON – Cablevision Systems doesn't expect much impact on its business from recent pay TV mergers, Gregg Seibert, the cable operator's CFO, told the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Telecom and Media Conference here on Tuesday. 

"I don't see any direct impact on us as far as programmers increasing their asks on us," he said in a session that was webcast. "It's probably a positive for the industry as a whole and doesn't impact us" much.

Seibert also addressed Cablevision's own appetite for deals, saying, "We've not been looking for cable acquisitions outside of our footprint." He didn't discuss whether Cablevision, controlled by the Dolan family, could consider a sale to a bigger cable firm. Analysts have long seen Cablevision as an attractive business, the Dolan family seems unlikely to sell unless it gets a very attractive offer. 

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Asked about the impact of cable consolidation and the planned acquisition of satellite TV giant DirecTV by AT&T, Seibert said there will be economies of scale for deal partners, but that programming costs have not been mentioned as an area of major benefit by companies involved in recent deals.

Instead, there has been more talk about moving technology forward after the combinations, he said. As big companies look at innovations, it will likely prove best for them to make them available to the industry as a whole, which would benefit other firms, he argued.

"Programming costs are an issue," Seibert reiterated, predicting a high single-digit increase for Cablevision this year. "It's an issue for the entire industry. My guess is there will be more scrutiny of the issue." He didn't make further predictions on the topic.

Asked about an upcoming Supreme Court decision on Aereo, the company that offers over-the-air TV via Internet-connected devices, Seibert declined to "speculate."

He also faced a question about satellite TV firm Dish Network's recent deals for more digital content rights and said he feels the company's rights are not too different from what major cable operators have. And he said Cablevision also continues to acquire more comprehensive programming rights across platforms. "Longer-term, we feel it's important to position ourselves as a connectivity company," he said.

Asked about better than expected first-quarter results at Cablevision, Seibert spoke of "a return to growth" after two years of declining adjusted operating cash flow. 
Is owning newspaper Newsday still important for Cablevision? Seibert pointed out that the firm also owns News 12, which has local traffic and weather desks. "Having Newsday, which has a wonderful another way to connect with our customers," he said. "It is relatively strategic in that sense." But he said management is looking to further improve how efficiently the business is run amid continued challenges for newspapers.
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