Time Warner Cable Loses 66,000 Video Subs in Q1

The cable operator's shares hit a new 52-week high though as its profit rises 52 percent and the company says it now has more than 10 million broadband subscribers.

NEW YORK -- Time Warner Cable on Thursday reported improved first-quarter financials as it continued to lose TV subscribers.

The company's stock hit a new 52-week high of $76.40 before closing up 1.3 percent at $76.26.

TW Cable said it lost 66,000 residential video subscribers in the opening quarter of 2011, up from a 42,000 drop in the year-ago period, but below the 141,000 it had lost in the fourth quarter and the record 155,000 it had lost in the third quarter of 2010. The company ended March with 12.19 million total video subscribers.

Analysts have said the pay TV industry overall likely continued to add subscribers in the first quarter. In a statement on Thursday, TW Cable CEO Glenn Britt also said the company has just crossed the 10 million high-speed Internet subscriber mark. Broadband service is "quickly becoming the anchor product in the eyes of consumers," he said. "Nowhere is this more evident than in our iPad app, which we launched last month to overwhelmingly positive consumer reviews."

The app allows users to live stream channels to iPads in subscribers' homes, but some networks have said the cable company doesn't have the rights to do so.

The second-largest U.S. cable operator on Thursday posted a first-quarter profit of $325 million, up 52 percent from $214 million in the year-ago period.

Revenue rose 5 percent to $4.8 billion as the company continued to add advanced services customers, such as broadband subscribers.

Britt was also asked to discuss the LA cable market on the call. Amid a report earlier this week that Charter Communications may look to sell its LA cable systems, Britt said his firm will evaluate that potential opportunity like all others and weigh them against other uses of cash. "I don't think we need to be much bigger," and no possible deal opportunities currently would move the scale needle much for the company, Britt said about  the broader current deal landscape.

Asked about a recent rights deal with the LA Lakers, he said the NBA franchise is "must-have content in that market" and the deal will bring financial stability and predictability to TW Cable. He also mentioned joint promotional opportunities. Amid talk that the company could go after rights for the LA Dodgers MLB franchise, Britt said the cable operator will also look for possible future regional sports rights opportunities in the future.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai