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Charter narrows Q4 loss; heading for all-digital

Fri, 02/22/2013 - 2:11pm
Brian Santo

Charter Communications said its residential customer relationships increased by 20,000 during the fourth quarter, compared to the year-ago period, which CEO Tom Rutledge said was the best Q4 performance at the company in 10 years.

The company said video subscriber losses were fewer than in the past – just 12,000 for the entire year. Triple-play penetration continues to improve.

The company said it added 4,000 new commercial customer relationships, up from 3,000 in the similar quarter of 2011.

Looking forward, Charter said that it intends to be all-digital by the end of the year, which will include reducing the number of analog channels available. Rutledge noted that the company ceased to actively promote its analog service in the middle of last year.

Rutledge said the strategy moving forward with analog will be to go with fully functional set-top boxes rather than DTAs, in order provide more fully functional services.

On the company’s conference call with analysts, Rutledge ducked a question on what markets are likely to be first to go all-digital. His response was: “We’re selling our way in. We’re only selling digital, and there are places where we’ve had high buy-in, and in those areas we’re going to go all-digital. We will learn what the logistical issues are. We’ll continue to sell-in, and in places where that’s high, that will minimize the disruption of going all-digital. We’re going to be opportunistic.”

The company reported a little more than $1.7 billion in capital expenditures in 2012, and it intends to spend about that much again in 2013. That includes a set of maintenance projects on the company’s HFC plant that started last year and are ongoing, with the aim of improving operations and customer service / customer experience.

“Our biggest opportunity is being a better cable operator,” Rutledge said. “We have a natural advantage in terms of plant over any of our competitors. Our biggest effort is putting our organization in shape, putting our plant in shape so that we can actually take advantage of our inherent strengths. We’ll continue to improve our operating metrics every day.”

Rutledge said the company is also spending its “precious development dollars” into cloud-based navigation, search and discovery, delivered through mobile devices.

Rutledge also said the company has secured rights to provide more programming both inside and outside the home in order to expand its multi-screen services.

The company also said it has identified a $9.5 billion commercial opportunity within its footprint that

In the fourth quarter, the MSO posted a loss of $40 million, or 41 cents per share, compared with a loss of $67 million, or 63 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Revenue rose 4 percent to $1.91 billion from $1.83 billion, helped by an increase in internet and commercial customers, along with higher sales of video and advertising.

For the full year 2012, Charter's loss totaled $304 million, or $3.05 per share, compared with a loss of $369 million, or $3.39 per share, in 2011. Revenue rose to $7.5 billion from $7.2 billion.

Charter shares rose $2.47, or 3.2 percent, to $79.50 in morning trading. Its shares are near the high end of their 52-week range of $59.04 to $83.55.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report

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