Charter Communications' CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Charter Communications (CHTR)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

May 08, 2012 11:00 am ET


Robin Gutzler -

Thomas M. Rutledge - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Christopher L. Winfrey - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Donald F. Detampel - President of Commercial Services and Executive Vice President of Technology


Stefan Anninger - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Unknown Analyst

David Carl Joyce - Miller Tabak + Co., LLC, Research Division

Benjamin Swinburne - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Jason B. Bazinet - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Lance W. Vitanza - CRT Capital Group LLC, Research Division

Bryan D. Kraft - Evercore Partners Inc., Research Division

Tuna N. Amobi - S&P Equity Research

Vijay A. Jayant - ISI Group Inc., Research Division

Alexander Sklar

Richard Tullo - Albert Fried & Company, LLC, Research Division



Good afternoon. My name is Brandice, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Q1 2012 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Thank you. Ms. Robin Gutzler, Vice President, Investor Relations, ma'am, you may begin.

Robin Gutzler

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Charter's 2012 First Quarter Earnings Call. This morning, we issued a press release over PR Newswire at 8 a.m. Eastern Time detailing our results. Before we proceed, I would like to remind you that there are a number of risk factors and other cautionary statements contained in our SEC filings, including our most recent Form 10-K and 10-Q. We won't review those risk factors and other cautionary statements on this call. However, we encourage you to read them carefully.

Various remarks that we make on this call concerning expectations, predictions, plans and prospects constitute forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ from historical or anticipated results. Any forward-looking statements reflect the management's current view only, and Charter undertakes no obligation to revise or update such statements or to make additional forward-looking statements in the future.

During the course of today's call, we'll be referring to non-GAAP measures as defined and reconciled in this morning's earnings release. These non-GAAP measures, as defined by Charter, may not be comparable to measures with similar titles used by other companies.

In today's earnings release, we reported results in accordance with GAAP, as well as pro forma results for 2011. The pro forma results reflect the acquisition of certain cable systems in 2011, as if they had occurred on January 1, 2011, unless otherwise noted. The year-over-year growth rates we will be referring to this morning are on a pro forma basis.

Joining me on today's call are Tom Rutledge, President and CEO; and Chris Winfrey, our CFO. The presentation that accompanies their comments can be found on our website,, under Financial Information. The press release and trending schedules are also posted on our website under Investor & News Center.

With that, I'll turn the call over to Tom.

Thomas M. Rutledge

Thank you, Robin. In the first quarter, we saw significant improvement in customer trends, and overall results were as planned. First quarter revenue was up nearly 3%, while adjusted EBITDA was down approximately 2% year-over-year. The change in adjusted EBITDA was primarily driven by the costs associated with accelerated customer growth. Free cash flow was $102 million this quarter versus $74 million in Q1 of last year. We gained 274,000 RGUs, more than double the net gain last year. We grew 20,000 video customers for the first quarterly video growth in 5 years. Internet customer additions grew by more than 50% year-over-year. And we added nearly 100,000 new relationships in the quarter, more than triple the gain 1 year ago.

Given the higher level of customer acquisition, we have an excellent opportunity to upgrade the level of service we provide those customers. In evaluating the key levers to drive further growth, my focus in the first 3 months has been on revising our pricing, packaging and selling structure and accelerating our path to an improved product set, particularly our video product.

The goals are to have higher ARPU per connect, lower transaction cost per customer, better retention by improving the value relationship with our customers and increasing operating cash flow across the 12 million homes we pass. Our Internet product is superior across virtually our entire footprint. The company has been smart in using this Internet advantage to gain new customer relationships and will continue to press this competitive advantage.

In the video, we've improved the quality of the product we offer today, and we will accelerate that. For example, Charter's goal is to have 100 HD channels by the end of this year. Today, we're on a path to reach that by midyear. Above and beyond HD channels, we will also employ a number of tactics to achieve higher digital sell-in in HD/DVR takeup. We have the necessary products and network capabilities today to create a compelling digital offer for existing customers and successfully compete for new video relationships by having a better video product than our competitors can replicate.

Our voice product will be more fully featured and priced more favorably than our competitors. And our commercial business is rapidly growing with a strong competitive position and a superior product offering. The company is underpenetrated in the marketplace, both in residential and commercial, and has a significant opportunity for growth. We have a powerful network and capabilities, and we are ramping our strategy and accelerating activities, which we believe will deliver results.

I'll now turn it over to Chris to give more details on the results for the quarter.

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