Insight Grows Basics Again

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Insight Communications reported its 15th consecutive quarter of basic customer growth, adding 16,000 basic subscribers in the first quarter, a 5% gain over the same period last year.
Privately held Insight, which reported 5% full-year basic-subscriber growth in 2007 and 2008, also added 19,900 high-speed Internet customers, 30,700 digital customers and 24,500 customers in the period.
In an interview, Insight CEO Michael Willner said there is no secret to the company's success, just hard work.
"We started on a path nearly five years ago to build a sustainable growth machine," Willner said. "We have had some success in doing that. This was planned; it was a lot of hard, nitty-gritty work. There is nothing sexy about it; it's blocking and tackling and running the business in a very methodical way."
Only three of the top nine cable operators, including Insight, showed basic customer gains in the first quarter: Time Warner Cable and Mediacom were the others. Willner said that the digital transition had a slight effect on growth but was not a driving force for the gains.
Still, growing basic customers in the current economic climate is a pretty impressive feat. And even some pay TV providers that have shown growth - DirecTV - have said they might have gone a little heavy on the promotional offers in light of that tough economy.
Last week, after reporting 460,000 first quarter net new subscriber additions, DirecTV CEO Chase Carey said on a conference call that he may have overdone the promotions a bit.
Willner said that Insight did not introduce any new out of the ordinary promotions during the first quarter.
"We're doing the regular stuff that we always do. We have long term bundled packages that we put together that we're offering and there are no significant or material changes," Willner said. "Why would you change it when you're successful?"
The basic-customer growth helped boost revenue by 15% to $236.7 million in the period and adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization by 8% to $73.1 million in the period.
Insight, the ninth largest MSO in the country, ended the quarter with 723,700 basic customers.

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