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Cablevision posts net drop in quarter

Loss jumps despite increased cash flow

NEW YORK — Cablevision Systems’ net loss jumped sharply to $238 million in the first quarter, the Long Island, N.Y.-based company said Thursday, despite growth in cable and programming cash flow.

The increased bottom line reflected both the absence of one-time asset sale profits, which inflated last year’s first quarter, and higher accounting charges for Cablevision’s exec stock plan.

Cable cashes in

Cablevision said its cable systems increased cash flow (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) 12% to $207.9 million, adjusted for the timing of system purchases, on 10.8% higher revenue of $490.9 million.

The cabler said the performance was helped by growth in cable subscribers and strong increases in pay-per-view and advertising revenues.

Cablevision programming arm Rainbow Media eked out 1.9% higher cash flow of $28.2 million, despite a sharp drop in cash flow from Madison Square Garden, and higher losses at startup networks like IFE and Bravo Latin America, as well as various local news channels.

Cash flow from the Garden fell 21% to $21.7 million as a result of the National Basketball Assn. strike, which reduced the number of Knicks games at the arena, as well as the impact of the closure of Radio City Music Hall for restoration earlier this year.

Among the better performers at Rainbow was movie channel AMC, whose cash flow rose 21% to $19.2 million, and Bravo, whose cash flow more than doubled to $4.8 million. Losses from startup networks rose 6.4% to $19.2 million.

Topping expectations

Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen said Cablevision’s performance in cable systems and programming was better than expected. Cablevision stock, which rose strongly Wednesday, fell back $1 to $88.50 on Thursday.

Cablevision said losses from electronics retail chain the Wiz, acquired early last year, fell slightly to $11.3 million on 86% higher sales of $123 million. Cash flow from newly acquired movie theaters fell sharply to $1.6 million on flat revenues.