Company taps Bear Stearns to evaluate strategy

Cablevision CEO James Dolan was tight-lipped Thursday about plans for the company’s Rainbow Media biz, amidst heavy speculation that the parent of AMC, IF and WE TV is for sale.

“We don’t comment on speculation in the marketplace. We feel strongly about our programming services. They’re doing very well, particularly with the new programming that we’ve added, so they should work very well,” Dolan said on a conference call to discuss the cabler’s latest financial results.

The company has apparently hired Bear Stearns to evaluate strategic alternatives. The move comes after the founding Dolan family tried for a year, and ultimately failed, to take the company private.

Rainbow revenue for the fourth quarter of 2007 rose 12% to $179 million. Operating income was flat at $65 million. Costs surged 33% as the company spent on new programming and marketing — including two original series “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” which made a splash on AMC.

Cablevision swung to an overall profit of $6.6 million from a loss of $24 million the year earlier. Total revenue rose nearly 11% to $1.84 billion, led by cable ops and sports.

The telecom/cable biz saw profits surge 32% to $268 million. Revenue rose 8.7% to $1.2 billion on strong growth in digital, video, high-speed data and voice customers.

Madison Square Garden, a mix of entertainment, Gotham sports teams and TV networks, saw revenue rise 18% for the quarter to $402 million. Income doubled $71 million.

For the full year, Cablevision revenue rose 11% to $6.5 billion. Income jumped to $218 from $126 million.

Wall Street liked the numbers, pumping up Cablevision stock, which has lost considerable ground since hitting its 52-week high of about $39 last summer.

The cabler can use a bump this year after a sometimes frustrating 2007. Along with the Dolans’ failed bid to take the company private, the Knicks and Cablevision last fall lost a highly publicized sexual harassment suit against the basketball team’s coach, Isaiah Thomas, by a former female team executive.

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