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Cablevision’s comfy

Sales surge plugs conglom's losses

NEW YORK — Cablevision slashed losses on surging sales last quarter, and Wall Street called the upbeat numbers a testament to cable’s triple-play strategy involving video, Internet and voice.

Some think it’s helping cable snatch back customers from satellite.

But cablers also are looking to fend off telcos, now jumping into pay TV.

In a tit-for-tat, Cablevision disputed a Verizon claim that the phone giant is poaching subs from Cablevision in the New York market. On a conference call, Cablevision execs said Verizon’s penetration is less than 2%, not 6.5% as the telco claims.

Cablevision’s revenue for the March quarter jumped 16% to $1.4 billion. Losses narrowed to $59 million from $119 million. Operating income grew 38% to $103 million.

The Bethpage, N.Y., company cited its burgeoning telecom biz, along with Madison Square Garden and cable channels AMC, IFC and WE.

Telecom revenue rose 17% to $993 million. Operating income rose 35% to $151 million. Cablevision added more than half a million voice customers (up 137%) over the past year.

It said 70% of its subscribers had digital service — a record in the industry that one analyst called “astounding.”

At Rainbow, revenue rose 2.9% to $206 million; income dipped 14.3% to $41 million. Ad revenue, affiliate fees and subscribers all rose at IFC, WE and AMC, but the nets’ combined income dipped on higher programming and marketing costs due in part to new original programming.

Madison Square Garden — which includes MSG Network, New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Liberty and Radio City — saw revenue rise but losses widen. Year-to-year comparisons were tough given lower expenses in 2005 due to the NHL lockout.

Cablevision shares rose 1.67% to $21.25.

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