Suddenlink lost another 34,800 basic video customers in the fourth quarter of 2014, nearly quadrupling the 8,600 it lost during the comparable 2013 quarter. Suddenlink also lost 26,300 digital video customers in Q4.
While video subscriber counting becomes a fixation during pay-TV earnings seasons, St. Louis-based Suddenlink has come under particular scrutiny, given it is the largest of the more than 60 smaller cable operators to not renew a carriage deal with Viacom last year. Suddenlink hasn't carried Comedy Central, MTV, BET or other popular Viacom channels since early October.
On Tuesday, while addressing investors during his company's Q4 earnings call, Suddenlink CEO Jerry Kent said the MSO isn't looking back.
"We took a stand on runaway programming costs and rejected the notion that content providers are entitled to unjustified cost increases," Kent told analysts, "Viacom attempted to impose such cost increases for content that has suffered significant ratings declines. We said no and the results since then show that it was the right decision."
For his part, Kent is taking a "glass half-full" approach to Suddenlink's post-Viacom customer losses:
"We retained 99.7 percent of customer relationships in the fourth quarter," he said. An individual with knowledge of Suddenlink said Viacom accounted for around 15 percen of Suddenlink's program cost when it was carried by the MSO.
UPDATE: Suddenlink noted that two-thirds of the subscriber losses it attributes to the Viacom decision occured in the first six weeks after Viacom channels were removed from Suddenlink. And nearly 90 percent of them occured by the end of November. By December, the MSO says, it's subscriber decline trendline had return to a normal rate of attrition.
Viacom didn't respond to Kent's statements with one of its own. However, executives from the conglomerate have recently noted that Viacom has 70 percent of the U.S. pay-TV market currently locked down with multi-year licensing agreements. They also say that rurally focused Suddenlink, which operates in a number of markets that have limited competition from satellite or IPTV operators, is perhaps not the best barometer of Viacom's market value.
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