UPDATE 1-Cablevision posts loss; cable TV subscribers slip, costs up

Thu May 9, 2013 10:46am EDT

May 9 (Reuters) - Cablevision Systems Corp reported a quarterly loss on Thursday as fewer people subscribed to its cable television services and its programming costs rose.

Total subscribers increased 0.2 percent from Dec. 31 to 3.2 million as more people signed up for its high-speed data and voice plans. But cable TV service subscribers dipped 0.2 percent to 2.88 million.

Cablevision executives said programming costs jumped 12 percent and that double-digit increases are expected going forward.

Shares of the company fell 3 percent at $15.02 in morning trade.

"Cablevision looked like a train wreck," said Todd Mitchell, an analyst with Brean Capital. "Their cost basis is going up dramatically."

Cablevision Chief Executive James Dolan said he expects recent pricing moves and an improved advertising outlook to boost adjusted operating cash flow in the second quarter. In the first quarter it fell 27 percent to $343.4 million.

The company does not provide details on total costs, but the bleak outlook on programming costs came from Cablevision executives in a conference call with analysts.

The cable service company faces increased competition from Verizon's FiOs service and rising prices that media companies charge cable providers to carry their channels.

Cablevision has sued Viacom, the owner of several cable channels including MTV and Comedy Central, for $1 billion, accusing the company of forcing cable providers to buy channels they don't want.

For the first quarter, Cablevision posted a loss of $16.4 million, or 6 cents per share, compared with net income of $57.2 million, or 21 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue slipped 1 percent to $1.52 billion. Analysts had expected $1.55 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.