Cablevision reported growth in revenue and net income, as well as an unusually large video subscriber loss it said was a direct result of channel blackouts it experienced during arguments over retransmission rights with programmers.
The company also announced a $500 million extension of its share buyback program and said its spin-off of Rainbow is likely to be accomplished by mid-year.
Cablevision incorporated results from the recently acquired Bresnan Communications in its fourth quarter.
Cablevision reported Q4 net revenue of $1.86 billion, up from $1.76 billion a year ago. Net in the most recent quarter was $113.9 million, compared with $78.6 million a year ago.
The company lost 35,000 video subscribers during the quarter. Of course, with Bresnan's customers in the consolidated tally, Cablevision's overall subscriber count grew, to 3.3 million. Cablevision lost 15,000 digital video customers, to end with 3.1 million. It added 6,000 broadband and 9,000 voice customers, however.
Those results translated into a loss of 35,000 revenue-generating units, to end the quarter with 11.5 million, and a loss of 23,000 customer relationships, to end with 3.6 million.
Breaking out the fourth-quarter 2010 net revenues in cable TV, that segment increased 4.9 percent to $1.39 billion compared with the prior-year period. Cablevision said the increase was driven by the 12-month growth in digital video, high-speed data and voice customers, as well as higher rates.
The company said it lost basic cable subscribers in the wake of an October dispute with Fox. Cablevision had balked at the fees it was paying News Corp. to carry Fox channels on its lineups. As a result, Cablevision customers went without Fox programming for 15 days, and sports fans missed two World Series games.
"We were faced with a take-it-or-leave-it situation on very expensive programming costs," chief operating officer Tom Rutledge said on a conference call.
Without providing specifics, Rutledge said the talks led to lower fees than Cablevision would have had to pay had it agreed to News Corp.'s terms right away.
"So we thought that taking the hit was worth it," Rutledge said. "But we thought it was a one-time kind of hit."
He said most of the cable subscribers who canceled their service had been buying television service only, and the company saw a rise in customers buying packages combining cable, telephone and Internet services.
– CED's Brian Santo contributed to this report