In its first full quarter since acquiring AT&T Broadband in November,
Comcast Corp. said its highest priority will be to stem subscriber losses at the
unit, which numbered about 500,000 last year.
In a conference call with analysts discussing its fourth-quarter results,
Comcast Cable Communications Inc. president Steve Burke said the company is
already making progress in turning around those subscriber losses.
Comcast completed its acquisition of AT&T Broadband Nov. 18.
For the three months of December, January and February, Burke said, the
company lost about 8,000 basic subscribers, compared with 170,000 last year. He
added that the company is projecting a subscriber gain in March.
Burke said the turnaround -- Comcast estimated that subscriber growth will be
flat in 2003 -- is merely a matter of the MSO performing business as usual.
"When we look at what's happened at AT&T, we think that was an abnormal
situation," Burke said on the conference call. "Normal, well-run cable companies
should gain subscribers. There is nothing intrinsic in the systems or the
situation that is causing it to be any different than any other cable situation.
We think the ship has turned."
Burke added that the subscriber losses at AT&T Broadband were not due to
its cable plant being in poor shape. He said that in 2002, Comcast estimated
that 73 percent of AT&T Broadband's cable plant was competitive, meaning
that it was either 750-megahertz or 550-MHz, two-way-capable.
He added that the goal is to make 90 percent of the former AT&T Broadband
plant competitive by the end of 2003, increasing to 97 percent by the end of
Comcast president Brian Roberts said the company is projecting no subscriber
losses for 2003. "There was an alarming trend and it needed to be dealt with,"
he said on the conference call.
For the quarter, pro forma revenue at Comcast increased 11 percent to $4.125
billion and cash flow was up 8.9 percent to $1.947 billion.
Video revenue was up 4.5 percent in the period.
Digital-cable subscribers rose by 389,400 in the quarter, ending the year at
6.6 million. High-speed-data subscribers also rose substantially, up 367,000 to
The company estimated that 2003 revenue growth would be in the
high-single-digits. Cash flow is expected to rise more than 26 percent to
between $6.2 billion and $6.3 billion this year from $4.9 billion in