Battered by its very public fight with Yankees Entertainment & Sports
Network, Cablevision Systems Corp. said Thursday that it had lost just 5,400
subscribers in the first four months of the year that were directly attributable
to the dispute, far below most industry expectations.
In a conference call with analysts discussing its first-quarter results
Thursday, Cablevision CEO James Dolan said the MSO lost 10,400 subscribers
between January and April, including 4,000 who had signed on after the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks temporarily knocked out broadcast-television towers in the New
York metropolitan area.
For the period between Jan. 1 and March 31, Cablevision said it lost about
Some observers had expected the subscriber drop to be between 20,000 and
25,000, mainly due to Cablevision's inability to show New York Yankees Major
League Baseball games.
Although Cablevision minimized the impact of the subscriber losses, the drop
reversed a two-year first-quarter trend of customer gains. According to
Cablevision's financial statements, the MSO added 9,055 basic customers in the
first quarter of 2001 and 12,840 in the first quarter of 2000.
And in a fashion that has become typical of the dispute between the two
companies, YES said in a New York Times article Friday that the customer
loss is more like 30,000 to 50,000.
Despite losing customers, Cablevision reported strong 13 percent revenue and
cash-flow growth in the period.
The MSO also reiterated its plans to address a perceived funding shortfall
for 2003, stating that it is evaluating its options, including issuing debt or
equity securities, reducing capital expenditures or selling assets.
But Cablevision may have put a damper on investor expectations that the MSO
would sell its lucrative personal-communications-services licenses to fund the
shortfall, stating that its board of directors has authorized a $42 million
investment in its PCS unit, Northcoast Communications LLC.
Cablevision said it plans a focused pilot rollout of the PCS service in New
York, but the company offered no time frame.
Cablevision stock was down $1.14 each to $24.05 per share in early trading