Cabler’s vision gets Wall Street approval

Cabler picture's clearing after fuzzy few months

NEW YORK — As Wall Streeters ponder the recent Rainbow/Weinstein marriage, at least some are warming to Rainbow parent Cablevision after discouraging months of strategic kinks and detours.

The pact with the Weinstein Co. “suggests that Cablevision is taking steps to better position itself strategically,” said Oppenheimer analyst Tom Eagan. One obvious benefit down the line is boosting homevideo revenue of the Rainbow channels’ original content.

Rainbow owns nets IFC, AMC and WE: Women’s Entertainment as well as producer IFC Films.

Longer term, Rainbow assets could be combined with Liberty Media’s Discovery or QVC, or AMC could hook up with Starz Encore, Eagan said.

Deal for homevideo, foreign sales and the creation of a new film library was formally announced Thursday.

The same day, Cablevision CEO James Dolan teased Wall Street, saying he’d entertain offers for the Bethpage, N.Y., company should one come along, but noted that the New York area cabler’s management has “set the bar very high.”

“If someone can come in and beat what you do … you have to take that offer very seriously,” he said at the cabler’s annual shareholder meeting.

It’s no secret that Time Warner would love to own the 3 million subscriber system, which surrounds the TW Cable footprint in New York City.

Cablevision’s cable systems are booming, beating most rivals in returns and subscriber ads. It posted strong first-quarter numbers.

Yet the past year has been tumultuous as internal battles and odd moves had analysts, investors and industry insiders scratching their heads.

All in the family

The spring was punctuated by an open and nasty rift between Jimmy Dolan and his father, Cablevision founder and chairman Charles Dolan, over the future of costly high-def satellite service Voom.

Chuck shuffled around the board, but Jimmy won. Over the past few months, Voom was mostly shuttered.

Cablevision also joined an unsuccessful bid for Adelphia Communications and offered millions to buy a large swath of Manhattan’s West Side to thwart the city’s plans for a new stadium.

At the meeting, Cablevision elected a slate of directors that includes one new member, Chuck Dolan’s daughter Marianne Dolan Weber. She replaces Thomas Dolan, one of Charles’ sons, and the chief information officer, who has been on leave from the company since mid-April. Cablevision has not explained his leave or why he was not named for re-election to the board.

Charles; James; another son, Patrick; and a son-in-law, Brian Sweeney, also serve on the board.

During the Voom dispute, the elder Dolan replaced three board members after they sided with James in deciding to shut down the service.

That move raised concerns among corporate governance experts, and Dolan later retreated from a plan to shrink the size of the board from 15 to 12, which would have basically squeezed out three of the company’s six directors not elected by the Dolans.

Cablevision stock jumped more than 2% Thursday to close at $25.79.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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