Cablevision takes strong sale stance

Dolan may be ready to sell net trio

In his strongest public statement yet suggesting that AMC, IFC and WE may be for sale, Cablevision chief exec James Dolan said Thursday he believes the cabler “still needs to make some strategic moves with our networks.”

Dolan spoke on a conference call to discuss company’s upbeat first quarter financials. Revenue rose nearly 5% and cable ops added 22,000 net basic subscribers and 140,000 digital subs.

Cash flow rose 30% to $354 million. Net losses were flat at about $119 million.

Yet the past three months have been tumultuous for Cablevision as James and his father, company founder and chairman Charles Dolan, battled over high-def service Voom, which was downsized and partly sold.

The cabler waged a failed last-minute bid for Adelphia Communications. And it’s also been aggressively fighting the city’s plans to build a stadium on Manhattan’s West Side that it sees as a threat to Madison Square Garden.

The various reports all fueled speculation that Cablevision would ultimately be split up, with cable systems and channels sold.

Cablers juicy targets

Cable networks are about the juiciest, most desired acquisition targets in the media world — the one class of asset every major media CEO would be happy to buy. Pricetags generally reflect that.

All three nets are on the upswing, with AMC posting its strongest ratings quarter ever, execs said.

Together, AMC, IFC and WE: Women’s Entertainment saw revenue rise 7% to $135 million. Operating income grew 19% to $48 million. Company cited a 21% jump in ad revenue driven by higher sellout rates — offset in part by higher production and marketing costs.

At AMC, primetime ratings were up 5% season to date. “AMC is now a top 15 cable net in primetime,” said Rainbow chief Josh Sapan. He cited the net’s investment in original programming plus a focus on “popular classic movies.”