Cablevision ( CVC) on Tuesday reported strong results for advanced services in the first quarter, and weak but improving numbers for basic cable service. The company's results, along with company comments on a conference call with analysts, once again call into question the threat Cablevision and other cable TV operators face from Verizon ( VZ) and other telcos cutting prices as part of a bid to gain share in the high-speed Internet service business. Verizon and SBC Communications ( SBC) have gained attention in recent weeks for plans to increase their share of the broadband market with the help of aggressive pricing. But on Tuesday, Cablevision's cable and communications president, Tom Rutledge, said, "We've seen no effect yet in terms of any increased competition." The company's comments and results mirror
information earlier this month from Comcast ( CMCSA), the nation's largest cable operator, which said reports of broadband competition from DSL were greatly exaggerated. Furthermore, Cablevision's strong results for advanced services resemble similar first-quarter reports from Charter Communications ( CHTR) and Cox Communications ( COX). Shares in Cablevision, which operates systems with 3 million subscribers in the New York City area, fell 71 cents to $21.09 by midday Tuesday. results for the first quarter ended March 31, Cablevision said it added 184,900 digital video customers, about 50,000 more than it added in the fourth quarter. Analysts had expected little, if any, pickup in the pace for advanced video services.
High-speed data customers rose 83,700 -- an addition that was about 20,000 ahead of analysts' expectations.
Like Comcast's Steve Burke, Cablevision's Rutledge insisted that cable modem service is superior to the telcos' DSL for high-speed Internet connections. Given that Cablevision's upload and download speeds for data customers are anywhere from 2 to 8 times faster than they are for DSL, says Rutledge, DSL and cable modems are not the same product. Cablevision said a majority of new high-speed data customers in the quarter installed the necessary computer hardware and software for themselves, encouraged by a promotion that offered the service at $19.95 a month for the first three months for do-it-yourselfers. Though Cablevision reported losing 11,600 basic cable subscribers in the first quarter -- a weaker performance than analysts had expected -- executives suggested the company was already in the midst of a basic turnaround. The company said it added 4,700 basic subscribers in March, 6,500 in April, and more than 6,000 so far this May.