Cablevision again delays troubled spinoff

NEW YORK — Cablevision won’t be ringing out the New Year by celebrating the spinoff of Rainbow Media Enterprises after all.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday, cabler quietly revealed it is once again delaying the spinoff of Rainbow — which includes the troubled high-def satcaster service Voom and national cable nets AMC, Independent Film Channel and sports programming — into a separate company.

Hold-up comes as Cablevision continues to fight to resolve an SEC inquiry into accounting practices at AMC. Company did not say in its latest filing when the spinoff may occur.

Cablevision was to have spun off Rainbow in September, but delayed the launch until the final quarter of 2004.

The New York-based Cablevision envisions the spinoff as a way of luring more high-risk investors, since Rainbow assets are national in reach.

Wall Street hasn’t eagerly embraced the plan, pointing to the money-losing Voom as a trouble spot.

Voom may be the country’s first all-high-definition TV provider, but so far it has been getting shaky reception from viewers in a market dominated by powerhouse satcasters DirecTV and EchoStar.

Cablevision topper Charles Dolan launched Voom at the beginning of the year, convinced that high-def will be as big a revolution as the transition from black-and-white TV to color.

Voom, which has had a hard time signing up customers, has about 26,000 subs, vs. DirecTV’s roughly 12 million and EchoStar’s 10 million.

Some on Wall Street speculate Cablevision will scuttle Voom and sell the sat service to EchoStar or DirecTV as they ramp up their HD channel capacity. This fall, DirecTV said it would spend $3 billion on satellites over the next three years that would add capacity for 1,500 HD channels.

Voom has 35 HD channels, including 21 it created called Voom HD Originals; among them are Rush HD, for extreme sports, and Divine HD, which caters to gays and lesbians.

Cablevision has already spent more than $150 million on the service, including the launch of the Rainbow 1 satellite last year.

Rainbow DBS reported revenues of $5.9 million in the third quarter, with losses of $75.3 million — attributed in part to outlays for Voom.

Friday’s filing came after U.S. markets closed.

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