Trifecta Thursday: Three MSOs Tell Their 3Q Tales
Only 1 publicly traded cable company grew basic customers in 3Q and that was Mediacom. The MSO saw 3K adds, marking its 3rd consecutive Q of basic growth. Cablevision, which is traditionally weak in 3Q because of Jersey Shore and Hamptons disconnects, reported Thurs that it lost 19K basics, while Charter lost about 26K. As for the economy, CVC made some waves on Wall St after Jim Dolan announced that the company is “not actively pursuing any further strategic alternatives at this time” in light of the current environment. Shares plunged as much as 13% during the day, despite strong results (it closed down 4%). Unlike Time Warner Cable ( Cfax , 11/6), CVC didn't wave any other warning flags, with execs saying they generally aren't seeing change in non-pay churn. Noting that he's been in the cable business for 30 years, Mediacom chief Rocco Commisso declared that he has “witnessed first hand at least 3 economic downturns, and in each case the cable business proved to be rather immune to reduced consumer spending and high unemployment rates.” MCCC even raised full-year guidance for the 3rd time this year, bumping revenue growth up to between 7.5%-8% from 7-8% and adjusted OIBDA to 9%-10% from 8.5-9.5%. Cap ex guidance increased to $285mln from $275mln. Charter pres/CEO Neal Smit said his company is experiencing a “slight impact” from the economy, principally in the areas of customer retention and bad debt. New connects are down, but existing subs are migrating to bundles at a greater rate, he said. And, unlike Comcast ( Cfax , 10/30), “we really haven't seen a change in competitive activity or impact from AT&T,” said Smit. Cablevision downplayed Verizon FiOS competition in NYC, but S&P said that its 19K basic sub loss was the MSO's worst in nearly 6 years. “CVC cited slow housing starts, but we also note stiff telco competition in NYC,” S&P said in a research note, lowering CVC to “strong sell” from “hold.” Sanford Bernstein was much more bullish, saying it saw no visible evidence of FiOS impact. The firm declared that CVC “continues to post the hands-down best numbers in the telecom/cable/satellite universe quarter after quarter after quarter.” CVC put up digital video gains of 59K, with an eye-popping penetration of more than 90% of homes passed. Meanwhile, everyone will continue to wait for what Q4 holds. Charter COO Michael Lovett did say that Q4 rate adjustments may lead to increased churn and/or budget trimming by customers. Several operators, including Comcast, have rate increases taking affect in 4Q.