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As I look at the cable group, with industry leader Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) having reported its results a week ago, and second-in-command Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC ) following suit yesterday, I'm taken by the steadiness with which the two largest cable providers are conducting their business. That's especially impressive amid the increasing unwillingness of consumers to part with their hard-earned greenbacks.
As Time Warner Cable -- which will soon be spun off from just plain Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) -- told us, its RGU additions (one subscriber taking one service) increased by a total of 656,000 in the quarter. That's 20% more than were added in last year's second quarter. And all this led to revenue increases in each of the company's product areas, with both high-speed data and the telephone offering checking in with double-digit improvements.
Without tossing too many metrics at my Foolish friends, there are lots of other numbers emanating from Time Warner Cable that you should know about. For instance, during the quarter, free cash flow was up about 40% from the year-ago period. Beyond that, more than 2.8 million subscribers now take the company's triple play offering of video, data, and telephone services. That's from about 14.7 million total customer relationships.
But what about our ever-softening economy and its potential future effects on the company? As CEO Glenn Britt noted during his conference call following the release of earnings, the nation's economic slowdown has resulted in differing effects for the cable operator. On the one hand, the economic softness has resulted in a reduction in churn. That's when a subscriber drops a company's service, either for another carrier or to save a few bucks.
On the negative side, however, Time Warner Cable -- and its peers -- hasn't been able to depend on the traditional nudge to subscriber momentum from housing growth. And somewhat similarly, as has been the case with most media companies, ad sales have been weaker than expected of late.
But the key for all the cable operators, it seems to me, lies in their ability to remain ahead of competitors like Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) , AT&T (NYSE: T ) , and DirecTV (NYSE: DTV ) . The returns would indicate that nobody's yet gaining on them.
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