After a third quarter marred by heavy subscriber losses in the wake of a month-long retransmission consent dispute with broadcaster CBS, Time Warner Cable chief financial officer told an industry audience Wednesday that the New York-based MSO is back on track and expects to report lighter video customer losses in the fourth quarter.
Time Warner Cable lost 306,000 residential video customers in the third quarter as a result of the dispute, which saw CBS station in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas go dark to its cable customers for the month of August. The heavy losses – it was the largest quarterly video subscriber loss for the company in its history – helped fuel the argument that the second largest cable operator in the country was a prime candidate for consolidation.
At the Citigroup Internet, Media & Telecommunications conference in Las Vegas, Minson said that although there were some residual effects of the CBS dispute in the early part of the fourth quarter, TWC finished the fourth quarter shedding about 215,000 video customers, higher than the 129,000 lost in the fourth quarter of 2012, but an improvement over the previous period. TWC added about 15,000 phone subscribers and 55,000 high-speed data customers in the period, Minson said.
The CFO added that more importantly, with the CBS dispute behind it and initiatives in place to improve customer service and packaging, TWC is turning the corner on the subscriber front, He noted that in December, the MSO added 60,000 residential high-speed data customers, about 40,000 better than what it added in December 2012. TWC also added 17,000 phone customers last month, about 12,000 better than the comparable period in 2012.
“We have our mojo back on the subscriber side,” Minson said.
Minson’s comments come a day after Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said his cable company expected to report a video customer gain in the fourth quarter, its first quarterly rise since 2007.
Time Warner Cable shares were down about 1% ($1.05 per share) to $133.86 in afternoon trading Wednesday.
Time Warner Cable is scheduled to report fourth quarter earnings on Jan. 30.