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TCI Satellite Ent. quarter loss climbs

Substantial revenue rise doesn't offset loss

Up-in-the-air TCI Satellite Entertainment Inc. (TSAT), formerly a subsidiary of Tele-Communications Inc. and now 37% owner of Primestar Inc., saw its losses widen 32% in the first quarter to $69.5 million as revenues rose 37% to $168.5 million.

Meanwhile, all-important operating cash flow, or operating income before depreciation and other non-cash charges, jumped 57% to $21.1 million.

TSAT also reported that it added 63,000 net customers during the quarter, bringing its total to 914,000. What it didn’t specify, however, was revised plans to transfer its digital satellite customers to the newly created and privately held Primestar Inc.

Primestar, TSAT and the four other cable companies with a Primestar stake had been planning on acquiring 28 Direct Broadcast Satellite frequencies from News Corp. and MCI Corp. But in a shock that left Primestar management reeling, the U.S. Justice Dept. last week refused to approve the sale of those slots to the so-called “cable cabal” instead of a non-cable-affiliated competitor.