Cabler revenues grew to $1.8 billion in third quarter

Cablevision’s decision to go to the mat with Fox in retrans negotiations, resulting in a 15-day blackout last month of Fox stations on its systems, was “rational,” said chief operating officer Tom Rutledge on Thursday. He added that “our behavior was not uneconomic,” suggesting that the dispute’s financial impact on the company would be minimal.

“It was a very unpleasant way of doing business,” said Rutledge, “but we were trying to save our customers costs. It is necessary to fight for your customers.” He said he felt spurned by the Federal Communications Commission when it failed to intervene after Cablevision asked the agency to do so.

Rutledge declined to disclose how many customers may have dropped their subscriptions due to the blackout, which prevented many from seeing NFL and World Series games, or to give guidance on the financial impact the blackout may have on fourth-quarter earnings.

Rutledge addressed the issue during an earnings conference call in which the Long Island-based cable operator reported that third-quarter revenues grew 5.6% to $1.8 billion, with net profits rising 14% to $112 million.

Like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Cablevision saw TV subscribers decline. Video subscribers fell by 24,500 in the quarter, with Rutledge citing a poor housing market as the reason. The company added 9,600 new broadband subscribers and 9,300 phone subs in the quarter.

Elsewhere, on the strength of original programming at its cable nets, the Rainbow unit boosted revenues by 12% to $291 million in the quarter. Operating profits grew 18% to $63 million. Higher ad rates at AMC and WE TV helped boost ad revenues at Rainbow by 13%.

The Long Island newspaper Newsday continued to be a problem for Cablevision, with revenues declining 4% to $76 million and an operating loss widening to $1.7 million from $900,000. Ad revenues at the paper fell 8%.

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