Charter Takes Aim at DirecTV


After a successful first quarter during which the company converted about
12,000 direct-broadcast satellite customers to digital-cable service, Charter
Communications Inc. president Jerry Kent said the MSO will step up its
dish-buyback programs.

In a conference call with analysts to discuss its first-quarter results, Kent
said he decided to accelerate the program after visiting Charter's Eastern
region offices and learning that the conversion rate was about 25 percent to 30
percent of homes contacted. Charter's Eastern region includes about one-half of
the company's operations.

'My only comment to them was, 'Why are we wasting our time elsewhere?'' Kent
said. 'If we're having that kind of success in converting those customers,
that's a better conversion-to-contact ratio than we have to homes without any
multichannel video.'

Kent said Charter digital service is priced about $8 per month less than
DirecTV Inc.'s service and offers a similar package of programming, in addition
to local channels that DBS subscribers can't get.

'The bottom line is that we have a better product at a better price-value
relationship, and I think we're going to refocus our efforts and really make a
concerted push to go after those customers,' he added.

For the quarter, revenue was up 14.4 percent and operating cash flow up 9.7
percent, in line with expectations. Charter added 274,000 digital subscribers in
the period and grew high-speed-data customers by 7,000 per week to 343,000.

As a result, Charter said it would revise its previous year-end estimate of
500,000 data customers to between 550,000 and 600,000.