Financials up despite subscriber exodus

Cablevision got a lift in the first quarter from its recent acquisition of cable operator Bresnan Communications but it was still not enough to stem continuing losses of TV subscribers.

The Long Island-based operator said Thursday that revenues grew 10% to $1.9 billion in the period. Without Bresnan, revs rose 3%.

Cablevision closed on its buyout of Bresnan in mid-December. The business has more than 300,000 subscribers in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. Despite the addition of Bresnan, video subs dropped by 8,000 in the quarter to 3.3 million in the fourth quarter Cablevision lost 35,000 TV subs, which execs blamed on a carriage fight with Fox last fall.

Chief operating officer Tom Rutledge blamed the losses on the soft economy, particularly in low-income areas in New York City, Newark and Bridgeport, Conn.

Cablevision’s net profits grew by 40% in the first quarter to $104 million.

The spinoff of its Rainbow programming unit, which includes AMC, WE TV, Sundance and IFC channels, is on track for mid-year. Execs said a letter from the IRS confirming the spin would be tax-free to shareholders.

While TV subs were down, broadband customers grew by 32,000 and phone customers by 40,000 in the quarter.

Revenues grew 11% at its cable biz in the quarter to $1.5 billion and by 13% to $77 million at its broadband Optimum Lightpath unit. Rainbow, which will be renamed AMC Networks after its spinoff, saw revenues rise by 10% to $273 million. Ad revs were up 15% while affiliate revenue grew 5%.

The downside for Cablevision remained the unit that includes the Newsday newspaper and Clearview Cinemas. Revenues fell 7% to $102 million, and operating profits fell 27% to $78 million, largely on ad declines at Newsday.

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