Cablevision Swings To Profit; MSG, Telecom Revs Offset Newsday Declines

Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) had another relatively solid quarter, as it returned to profitability and Q4 revenues rose 5 percent on the strength of its telecom services and the recently spun off Madison Square Garden franchise. Those areas performed well enough to offset Newsday’s 15.7 percent revenue decline to $90.3 million; no sense of how putting most of its online content behind a paywall affected the numbers. The Long Island paper’s poor showing was due to a 20.1 percent decline in advertising revenue offset slightly by a 1.2 percent rise in circulation revenue. The earnings release made no mention of this week’s announcement that Cablevision will begin testing a “TV to PC” online video service for current subscribers, but it will certainly come up during this morning’s analysts call at 10:00 AM ET.

Other highlights from the company’s Q4 earnings:

— Cable TV revs rose 5.2 percent, while AOCF was up 11.1 percent
— The number of basic video customers was down slightly by 2,800, or 0.1 percent
— iO: Interactive Optimum digital video customers grew by 4,800, or 0.2 percent
— Optimum Online high-speed data customers gained 45,700, or 1.8 percent

AMC/WE tv/IFC: The collection of cable programming networks saw revenues rise by 12.9 percent.

Newsday: Aside from the Q4 revenue decline, AOCF grew 8 percent to $11.1 million on cutting compensation, newsprint and other costs. The operating loss was narrowed to $2 million, as last year’s results were affected by a $402.4 million impairment charge. For the full year, Newsday’s net revenues rose 89.5 to $342.3 million, while AOCF was $21.8 million and operating loss was $12.6 million.

— Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan couldn’t make the call due to illness, so COO Tom Rutledge led the proceedings. He touched on the plans to grow interactive advertising as a major goal for the company this year.

Interactive ads: Rutledge said that interactive ads continue to grow significantly, but said he didn’t want to break out the numbers. “That said, it is material and contributes to the business. We’re getting repeat clients and new ones.”

TV to PC: After a few general remarks about the TV to PC Relay initiative as a good investment to retain customers by recognizing their viewing habits, Rutledge was asked if the Cablevision will have to enhance its existing VOD and pay-per-view business now that its making the online extension. “It’s not smart to fight the internet in the TV space,” Rutledge said. “On the other hand, if you’re a programmer and you’re getting license fees, you have to think about what you do with your content. It seems to me, that if you’re a programmer, you can’t expect to put programming on the internet and collect a license fee from the cable business. There are opportunities on the internet for programmers, but there are also perils. As a distributor, we think we can manage the issues and create value for the cable subscription. The TV to PC Relay is one of those.”