Adelphia Resizes Itself at 5.3M Subs

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Adelphia Communications Corp. has reported its first subscriber numbers in seven months, restating its customer counts to reflect a change in the way it tallies basic subscribers.

According to a report contained in a securities filing last Tuesday, basic subscribers as of March 31 number 5.3 million — down from 5.77 million in September — while digital customers have been reduced to 1.8 million, from 2.4 million in September.

High-speed data subscribers rose from 555,000 in September to 711,000 in March.

Adelphia said the prior numbers had included additional digital set-top boxes and cable modems billed to the same customer. The new figures, based on equivalent business units, do not double-count.

But bulk subscribers — such as those in multiple dwelling units — are tallied differently. In September, Adelphia counted MDU customers as one subscriber. Now the company is taking the total amount of money received from that MDU and dividing it by the average revenue per subscriber in that area.

For example, if one MDU was paying Adelphia $500 per month and average monthly revenue in the area was $50, then that MDU represents 10 subscribers.

Adelphia spokesman Eric Andrus said that the changes were necessary after Adelphia decided to change the methodology and eliminate double-counting.

The subscriber loss really isn't as dramatic as it might appear, said Andrus. There's a good chance that Adelphia never really had 5.7 million subscribers to begin with, due to inaccurate counting methods

With the new accounting method, Adelphia remains the No. 5 MSO in the country.

Also last week, Adelphia got $1.5 billion in debtor-in-possession financing from a group of lenders, led by JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, enabling it to complete an aggressive upgrade plan.

Adelphia chairman and CEO William Schleyer, in an interview last Wednesday, said Adelphia's cable plant is about 75% rebuilt, rising to 95% by the middle of next year.

"We've got the capital we need to get the plant rebuilt," Schleyer said. "Now what we have to do is focus on how we're going to emerge [from bankruptcy]."

"I think this company will be ready to emerge financially by the middle of 2004," Schleyer added. "Whether or not there are other issues around litigation or constituent issues that need to be resolved, that remains to be seen. But I think the company financially will be ready."

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