"It’s Rocco’s year" is a familiar phrase among cable executives. It’s hard to disagree.
With the Sinclair debacle behind him, Commisso and Mediacom are roaring. After bleeding basic subs since 2005, Mediacom reported a modest gain of 2,000 subs in the 2008 first quarter. Revenue rose 10% to $340 million, cash flow was up 17% and shares soared 20%. For Commisso personally, the rewards were a $510,000 cash bonus late in March and the chance to co-chair NCTA’s Cable Show ’08 in New Orleans. Below, Commisso reflects on Mediacom’s financial prowess, The Big Ten Network and New Orleans.
CableFAX: The Magazine: As co-chair of The Cable Show, you visited schools and homeless shelters during Cable Cares Day. What sticks with you from that intense day?
Rocco Commisso: The little kids [at Banneker Elementary School]. Just watching those kids and, frankly, knowing some of them won’t have the same opportunities that some other kids in America will have — it’s shameful. I can only hope they’ll be as lucky as I’ve been.
CFTM: To what do you attribute Mediacom’s strong Q1?
RC: Part of it is that we had the Sinclair [retrans] situation a year before. But even taking that away, we had record cash flow growth and decent revenue. And over a period of time we haven’t been hit with issues, either God-made or from the competition. Also, from 2001-2008 we have spent $2 billion in capital expenditures on our assets and consequently on our customers. Seems that all the investments we have made are starting to come through.
CFTM: And you’ve added 27,000 digital video subs, 30,000 broadband subs and 19,000 phone customers.
RC: Yes, it’s the triple play, which in my opinion, is a phenomenal value for the consumer. It’s the consumer voting with his pocketbook. For $90 they’re getting video, access and phone. Compared to what I’m paying and what you’re probably paying, it’s a great value. It’s also the people. We’ve hired over 1,400 new employees on a net basis in the last seven years. We’re giving back to our customers the fruits of our investment. We’re also trying to do a better job on customer service.
CFTM: What is one thing that concerns you about the competition?
RC: By far the top, top, top thing — and it has always been this, I’ve done enough speaking on it — is that the competition has no problem going to the government and asking for help where we haven’t.
CFTM: Does the Comcast-Big Ten deal give you hope that Mediacom can forge an agreement with Big Ten?
RC: I don’t know the details of the deal, but it might be similar to what we offered them more than a year ago. [Comcast reportedly will pay 70 cents/sub to Big Ten, which had sought $1.10, the AP says.] Now they look like they might be more flexible. I’m sure we’ll be talking to them again.
Rocco Commisso’s Top Priorities for Cable