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Cablevision's Pace Slackens

User growth slows.

Cablevision (CVC) posts strong sales, but subscriber growth is slowing.

The Bethpage, N.Y., cable giant posted a fourth-quarter loss of $23.9 million, or 8 cents a share. Those numbers compare with a year-ago profit of $64 million, or 23 cents a share.

Sales for the quarter rose 13% to $1.68 billion. Analysts were looking for a loss of 2 cents a share on $1.62 billion in sales, according to Reuters Research.

For the full year, Cablevision lost $126 million, or 47 cents a share. That compares with a profit of $89 million, or 32 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales for 2006 were $5.9 billion, compared with $5.2 billion in 2005.

"For our cable business, 2006 marked the most successful year in the company's history with our largest annual revenue gain ever," CEO Jim Dolan said in a press release.

The company saw 3.3% basic subscriber growth for the year despite a big late-year slowdown to 0.5% growth in the fourth quarter. Analysts and investors have worried that Cablevision's popular triple play offer of video, phone and Internet is starting to dull in the face of direct competition from

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and its advanced services bundle.

Looking ahead, Cablevision expects basic video subscriber growth to fall somewhere in the range of 1% and 2% for the year. That's roughly half the pace of subscriber additions last year.

Churn, or the monthly rate of subscriber defections, was 1.8% in the fourth quarter. That's down from 2% in the third quarter and flat with the year-ago level. The company now has 2 million Internet customers and 1.2 million telephone customers. Those numbers compare with 1.7 million Net subscribers and 713,000 phone users.

Cablevision shares fell 48 cents early Tuesday to $28.52.