Cablevision: News Corp. to blame for Q4 subscriber losses

Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) said its two-week long battle with News Corp. last fall over retransmission fees that left its subscribers without access to Fox network programming, including Glee, NFL games and part of the MLB playoffs, pushed subscriber losses higher than forecast for the fourth quarter.

The Bethpage, N.Y.-based MSO, reporting Q4 results Thursday, said it lost 35,000 video subscribers instead of the 14,000 that had been projected, and 6,000 high-speed Internet subscribers in the quarter rather than the 11,000 analysts had forecast. The MSO said revenues increased 5.7 percent from a year ago to $1.87 billion, and earning grew 45 percent to $113.9 million, or 38 cents a share.

Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge said on an earnings conference call that the company believes "almost all of the decreased sales or disconnects...resulted from the retrans fight," adding that customer trends returned to normal after a new deal was signed and Fox's signal restored.

"I think it's an anomaly," he said.

The loss of 35,000 video subscribers was "the worst since the launch of (Verison's) FiOS," said Craig Moffett, an analyst with Bernstein Research. "Virtually all the forward-looking subscriber metrics were weak."

Cablevision lost 2,800 subscribers in 4Q2009 and 24,500 in 3Q2010.

For more:
- see this release
- see this article

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