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Charter Communications Inc (CHTR) Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

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CHTR earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2018.

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Charter Communications Inc  (CHTR 5.58%)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Jan. 31, 2019, 8:30 a.m. ET


Prepared Remarks:


Good morning. My name is Michelle, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Charter's Fourth Quarter 2018 Investor Call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions)

I would now like to turn the call over to Stefan Anninger. Please go ahead.

Stefan Anninger -- VP of IR

Good morning, and welcome to Charter's fourth quarter 2018 investor call. The presentation that accompanies this call can be found on our website,, under the Financial Information section.

Before we proceed, I would like to remind you that there are a number of risk factors and other cautionary statements contained in our SEC filings, including our most recent 10-K filed this morning. We will not review those risk factors and other cautionary statements on this call. However, we encourage you to read them carefully. Various remarks that we make on this call concerning expectations, predictions, plans and prospects constitute forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ from historical or anticipated results. Any forward-looking statements reflect management's current view only, and Charter undertakes no obligation to revise or update such statements or to make additional forward-looking statements in the future.

During the course of today's call, we will be referring to non-GAAP measures as defined and reconciled in our earnings materials. These non-GAAP measures, as defined by Charter, may not be comparable to measures with similar titles used by other companies. Please also note that all growth rates noted on this call and in the presentation are calculated on a year-over-year basis, unless otherwise specified.

Joining me on today's call are Tom Rutledge, Chairman and CEO; and Chris Winfrey, our CFO.

With that, I'll turn the call over to Tom.

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Stefan. We performed well in 2018, while simultaneously completing the most customer-impacting phase of our integration. For the full year, we grew our total Internet customer base by 1.3 million customers, or 5.3%. We grew cable revenue by 4.7% in 2018 and cable adjusted EBITDA by 6.5%. With our integration now nearly complete, our goal is to accelerate customer relationship and cash flow growth going forward.

Following our transactions in May of 2016, we put three very large companies together in order to create a new company with a larger and more concentrated footprint, giving us the scale to innovate and grow faster. We are beginning to benefit from that strategy and all the ways we expected. When we started the process of pursuing additional scale in 2013, we knew that a fully benefit from any acquisitions, we would need to create a single operating entity with a unified product, marketing, technology and service infrastructure. We spent over 2.5 years doing that.

Slide Four of today's presentation reflects the progress against the integration plan, we first showed in 2016. And the earlier than expected launches of DOCSIS 3.1, 1 gig service and Spectrum Mobile. While our integration and network upgrades have excellent long term benefits, they've been disruptive to our customers, our ability to execute and counter to our long-term operating strategy of reducing service interactions, as planned. That process though is now essentially complete. We still have some work to do, but virtually all of the customer facing initiatives related to our integration are now behind us.

We've migrated 70% of our acquired residential customers to Spectrum pricing and packaging, are all digital initiative is now finished with complete of the upgrade DOCSIS 3.1 and the launch of our gigabit speed offering across our entire residential and business footprint, our service infrastructure is national, specialized and consistent. Our call centers and service platforms will be fully virtualized across the company by year-end and our field operation and customer care in-sourcing are also nearly complete.

By the end of 2019, we expect to have completed the very last pieces for our integration. But as I said, most of this year's integration activity is non-customer facing in nature. But the biggest integration initiatives behind us, we're now in a position to drive long-term sustainable, customer relationship growth, EBITDA growth and significantly lower capital intensity, driving accelerating free cash flow growth.

As we look forward to 2019 -- through 2019, we remain focused on a number of key strategic priorities, including driving higher sales volumes. We've made some key changes to our Double and Triple Play packaging in September, including the way we sell landline voice and including Spectrum Mobile in every sales opportunity. Those changes require that we retrain our sales force personnel in all sales channels. That process took through October to take hold and our sales effectiveness will continue to improve. Our fourth quarter results demonstrate the churn continues to show meaningful improvements as planned.

Spectrum Mobile is ramping up. We added over 110,000 mobile lines in the fourth quarter and we're seeing a growing percentage of our new cable sales taking mobile service. We're also up-selling mobile service to existing cable customers. Over the longer term, we expect consumers savings from our mobile offering to drive incremental cable sales, as we build branded product awareness for our Spectrum Mobile service and become a more powerful retention tool.

In December, we began the process of allowing customers to transfer their existing handsets to Spectrum Mobile from other service providers at some of our stores. Over the coming months, we'll expand the Bring Your Own Device program to include a broader set of devices and to allow customers to bring their own device, process to do their own -- Bring Your Own device process themselves without having to visit us in a store. Full Bring Your Own Device availability will expand our mobile market opportunity substantially.

In 2019, we are also well-positioned to reduce service transactions, with the vast majority of our integration behind us, we expect to see a meaningful reduction in network activity, CPE swaps, service calls and truck rolls. Service activity should also decline, as our better product and pricing and services, across a larger base, improves. And as we begin to benefit from enhanced online self-service greater levels of self installs. So in 2019, the lower level of activity will raise customer satisfaction, reduce churn and extend customer lifetimes.

Finally, 2019 is the year we'll see a significant reduction in capital intensity. Our goal at the beginning of this process was to put our combined assets in a position to operate, as a single entity and to grow faster over the long term, as quickly as possible. As a result, we stepped up capital spending in the short term. The higher spending is now behind us and cable capital intensity will fall significantly in 2019, as planned, but also beyond 2019, as CPE spend per home declines, consumers increasingly install their own services, the reliability of our plant improves and our network becomes increasingly cloud-based and IP driven, all on higher expected revenue. While we continue to appropriately invest in our products and in our network.

Already in 2019, I expect the business and cash flow performance of our cable business will further demonstrate, the superiority of our networks and our assets, the returns of our recent investment, in the long-term benefits of our consumer-focused operating strategy on a larger set of assets.

I'll turn the call over to Chris Winfrey.

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Tom. And a couple of administrative items before covering our results. Like last quarter of the prospective adoption of the new revenue recognition standard, lowered EBITDA in the fourth quarter, by about $7 million, as compared to last year. In 2019, there should be less impact year-over-year, and we don't expect to continue to highlight the amount.

And as it relates to Hurricane Michael and Florence, and the wildfires in California, we did have some recovery and rebuild costs in the quarter, but they were relatively small and since we had storms in last year's fourth quarter, the negative impact of this quarter's EBITDA and CapEx on a year-over-year basis was minimal.

Now turning to our results. Total residential and SMB customer relationships grew by 248,000 in the fourth quarter and 942,000 over the last 12 months. Including residential and SMB, Internet grew by 329,000 in the quarter. Video declined by 22,000 and voice declined by 56,000. Over 70% of our acquired residential customers were in spectrum pricing and packaging at the end of the fourth quarter. And similar to what we saw at Legacy Charter, pricing and packaging migration transactions are slowing, which together with completion of network upgrades last year means that in 2019, we'll see lower CPE spending and meaningful churn benefits.

At residential Internet, we added a total of 289,000 customers versus 263,000 in the fourth quarter of last year. Over the last 12 months, we've grown our total residential Internet customer base by 1.1 million customers, or 4.9%. And we now offer gigabit service nearly 100% of our footprint using DOCSIS 3 .1.

Over the last year our residential video customers declined by 1.8 %. Sales of our stream and sports packages, which are primarily targeted Internet only is continue to do well. Spectrum Guide is being deployed to the vast majority of new video connects, providing a better overall video experience. And our video product is available via the Spectrum TV app on a variety of platforms, including Android, Kindle Fire, Roku, Xbox, Samsung Smart TV and computers. We also recently launched your Spectrum TV app on Apple TV with a zero sign on feature for customers with Spectrum Internet.

In Voice, we lost 83,000 residential voice customers in the quarter versus a gain of 23,000 last year, driven by lower Triple play sell-in. As Tom mentioned, we changed our voice pricing in mid-September to address wire-line voice sell-in, retention at roll-off and the launch of mobile. At acquisition, voices now $9.99 with no change to that price, when a customer rolls off a bundle promotion. With wireline voice at 9.99 value added service going forward, mobile is now positioned either triple play value driver for connectivity sales, similar to what wireline voice did for cable over the last decade. These are meaningful changes to a large selling machine, but the transition worked well in the fourth quarter.

Turning to Mobile, we added 113,000 mobile lines in the quarter, with a healthy mix of both unlimited and By the Gig lines. As of December, we had a 134,000 lines. As we add new features and functionality including Bring Your Own Device capabilities to expand our marketable population, as Tom mentioned.

Over the last year, we grew total residential customers by 771,000, or 3%. Residential revenue per customer relationship grew by 0.9% year-over-year, given the low rate of SPP migration and promotional campaign roll-off and rate adjustments. We did gross up some voice and video taxes in both revenue and expense, with no impact to EBITDA in the past or now. Those ARPU benefits were partly offset by a higher mix of Internet-only customers.

The Slide Seven shows our cable customer growth combined with our ARPU growth, resulted in year-over-year residential revenue growth of 3.9%. Keep in mind, that our cable ARPU does not reflect any mobile revenue.

Turning to commercial, total SMB in enterprise revenue combined grew by 4.5% in the fourth quarter. SMB revenue grew by 3.6% faster than last quarter, as the revenue growth impact of repricing our SMB products and Legacy TWC and Bright House has slowed . We have grown SMB customer relationships by over 10% in the last year. In the 2019, we expect a lower level of SMB ARPU decline from the repricing.

Enterprise revenue was up by 5.7%, excluding cell backhaul, NaviSite, and some one-time fees, which were a benefit this quarter. Enterprise grew by 6%, with 13% PSU growth year-over-year. Our enterprise group is at an earlier stage of a pricing and packaging transition that is very similar to what we have done in our larger SMB and residential businesses over the last two years. The process of moving customers to more competitive pricing, pressures enterprise ARPU in the near term, but ultimately the revenue growth will follow the unit growth, as is beginning to happen in SMB. We remain very confident of the strategy and our long term growth opportunity in enterprise.

Fourth quarter advertising revenue grew by 34% year-over-year and political advertising accounted for all of that growth, as it also utilizes traditional inventory. Mobile revenue totaled $89 million, with about $80 million of that revenue being device revenue. As a reminder, under equipment installment plans, or EIP, all future device installment payments are recognized as revenue on the connect date. Hence, the mobile working capital usage during the growth phase, which we've highlighted. In total, consolidated fourth quarter revenue was up 5.9% year-over-year, with cable revenue growth of 5.1%, or 3.9%, when excluding advertising.

So, moving to operating expenses on Slide Eight, in the fourth quarter, total operating expenses grew by $446 million, or 6.7% year-over-year. Excluding mobile, operating expenses increased by 3.6%. Programming increased 5.5 % year-over-year and a mid single- digit growth rates, probably a good baseline for 2019 programming cost growth.

Regulatory, connectivity and produced content grew by 11.8 %, driven by adoption of the new revenue recognition standard on January 1, 2018, which reclassed some expenses to this line in the quarter, as well as the voice and video tax and fee gross-up that I mentioned earlier. And finally, content costs were up, given more Lakers games in the fourth quarter of 2018 versus the fourth quarter of 2017.

Cost of service customers declined by 0.8% year-over-year compared to 3.5% customer relationship growth and even excluding some bad debt improvement year-over-year, cost of service customers was flat year-over-year. We are essentially lowering our per relationship service costs through changes in business practices and continue to see productivity benefits from in-sourcing investments.

Cable marketing expenses declined by 2.3% year-over-year and other cable expenses were up 7% year-over-year driven by higher ad sales costs from political, IT costs from ongoing integration, property tax and insurance and costs related to the launch of our Spectrum News 1 channel in Los Angeles.

Mobile expenses totaled $211 million and was comprised of device costs tied to the device revenue I mentioned. Market launch costs and operating expenses to stand out and operate the business, including our own personnel and overhead costs, in our portion of the JV with Comcast.

Adjusted cable EBITDA grew by 7.6% in the fourth quarter and when including the mobile EBITDA loss of $122 million, total adjusted EBITDA grew by 4.6%. As we look to 2019, annualizing our fourth quarter 2018 mobile EBITDA loss is a good starting place for estimating our 2019 mobile EBITDA losses. That generalization assumes a material acceleration in mobile line growth, which drives high acquisition cost as well as ongoing start-up cost.

As mobile lines and revenues scale relative to the fixed operating cost and variable acquisition cost, we continue to expect mobile will be a positive EBITDA and cash flow business, on a stand-alone basis, without accounting for the planned benefits to cable.

Turning to net income on Slide Nine, we generated $296 million of net income attributable to Charter shareholders in the fourth quarter versus $9.6 billion last year. The year-over-year decline was primarily driven by last year's GAAP tax benefit giving federal tax reform. Higher interest expense and pension, derivative and other non-cash adjustments in this year's fourth quarter, that was partly offset by higher adjusted EBITDA and lowered depreciation and amortization expense.

Turning to Slide 10 on CapEx. Capital expenditures totaled $2.4 billion in the fourth quarter, about a $150 million lower than last year. The decline was primarily driven by lower CPE, with less SPP migration, and as we finished all digital. We also had lower scalable infrastructure and support capital spend, given more consistent timing of in-year spend this year versus last, as well as the completion of various integration projects. That was partly offset by higher spend on line extensions, as we continue to build out and fulfill our merger conditions.

We spent a $106 million on mobile related CapEx this quarter, driven by software, some of which is related to our JV with Comcast and on upgrading our retail footprint for mobile. Most of the mobile spend is reflected in support capital. Following what I mentioned earlier, using the Q4 mobile CapEx run rate, is a simple way to think about 2019, also works. We expect normal CapEx will decline following the upgrade of a retail footprint.

For the full-year 2018, we spent $8.9 billion in cable CapEx, or 20.4% of cable revenue, down from 20.9% in 2017, consistent with our previous expectations. As we look to 2019, Tom mentioned, cable CapEx will be down meaningfully in absolute dollar terms and in terms of capital intensity.

We don't generally provide guidance, but with the significant decline in 2019 capital spend, I will tell you, our internal plan calls for $7 billion, roughly $7 billion of total cable CapEx in 2019, down from $8.9 billion in 2018 for all the reasons we've said.

Within that number, there are still significant product and network development and some integration capital including both software development and real estate improvements, which we treat as CapEx. As usual, if we find new high ROI projects during the course of the year, well that accelerated expand on existing projects, will drive faster growth, we would continue to do so.

The Slide 11 shows, we generated $885 million of consolidated free cash flow this quarter, including about $300 million of investment in mobile. Excluding mobile, we generated approximately $1.2 billion of cable free cash flow, roughly the same as last year's fourth quarter. Well, this quarter we did have higher adjusted EBITDA and lower cable CapEx year-over-year. Those were almost entirely offset by a lower cash flow benefits from working capital year-over-year.

Recall that, we spent a significant amount of capital in and late within the fourth quarter of 2017. So, we had a very large working capital benefit nearly $700 million within the fourth quarter of 2017. Excluding the year-over-year working capital impacts, cable free cash flow was up by over $400 million year-over-year in the fourth quarter.

For the full-year 2019, I expect another year of working capital related reduction cash flow, as we continue to add mobile customers, which drives handset related working capital needs, we'll continue to separate that, and if cable CapEx falls meaningfully, already in the first quarter in 2019, which means, we'll see an immediate material full-year step down in our capable CapEx payables balance, which could make our first quarter 2019 cable working capital look similar to the first quarter of 2018. The drivers for both of these working capital impacts are logical. Well, over the longer term, it's a question of timing both drivers will have outsized quarterly and full-year impacts.

We finished the quarter with $72 billion in debt principal, our run rate annualized cash interest at year end was $3.9 billion, whereas our P&L interest expense in the quarter suggest $3.6 billion annual run rate. That difference is primarily due to purchase accounting. As of the end of the third quarter, our net debt in the last 12 months adjusted EBITDA was 4.45-times at the high end of our target leverage range of 4-times to 4.5-times. We intend to stay at or below 4.5 -times leverage and we include the upfront investment in mobile to be more conservative than looking at cable only leverage, which stands at 4.38-times and is declining.

At the end of the quarter, we had nearly $3.4 billion in liquidity from cash on hand and revolver capacity. And in January, we issued $3.7 billion of investment grade bonds in bank debt as show on Slide 22. And we increased the size of our revolver, all of which will be used for general purposes, pending maturities and buybacks.

Pro forma for the repayment of our $3.25 billion of investment grade notes, maturing in February and April. Our weighted average cost of debt declines to 5.2%, our weighted average life of debt is over 11 years, over 90% of our debt matures beyond 2021 and over 80% of our debt will be fixed rate. So, we have a prudent and unique capital structure and consistent with how we regularly evaluate our leverage target. We don't currently expect to be material cash income tax payer until 2021 at the earliest, meaning $1 of EBITDA Charter, is not the same, as elsewhere from a leverage of free cash flow perspective. We also have strong visibility on EBITDA growth and accelerating cash flow growth, meaning we can mechanically de-lever quickly, if we see a permanent increase in refinancing costs, a change in business outlook or investment opportunities.

During the quarter, we also repurchased $4.3 million Charter shares and Charter Holdings common units totaling $1.4 billion at an average price of $314 per share during the fourth quarter. And since September of 2016, we've repurchased about 19% of Charter's equity.

Briefly turning to our taxes, on Slide 13. Our tax assets are primarily composed of our NOL and our tax receivables raised Bright House in a worth over $3 billion. So, we're looking forward to 2019, our customer, revenue and EBITDA growth combined with declining capital intensity, and tax assets will drive accelerating free cash flow growth. And we expect that free cash flow growth combined with an innovative capital structure and reasonable leverage target in an ROI based capital allocation to drive healthy levered equity returns.

Operator, we are now ready for Q&A.

Questions and Answers:


(Operator Instructions) Your first question will come from Jonathan Chaplin from New Street Research. Your line is open.

Jonathan Chaplin -- New Street Research -- Analyst

Thank you. Chris, thanks for breaking with tradition and giving CapEx guidance. I think it's extremely helpful. Just two quick questions, if I may. On CapEx, during the prepared remarks, you mentioned that the CapEx declines would continue. Did you mean that, that CapEx will continue its sort of around this level for cable of around $7 billion, or is there a path for it to move even lower than that in future years?

And then similarly on the cost side, you mentioned the reduction in activity now that you've got most of the customer-facing integration efforts behind you. Should we think of non-programming costs being stable at these levels with all of that activity behind you, or could not programming costs in sort of aggregate dollar terms come down a little bit from here? Thank you.

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

So, Jonathan, on the CapEx guidance going forward, we do think that in general going forward beyond 2019 and beyond our guidance that capital and since will come down that's a function of revenue growth and continued opportunities to be more efficient with our capital spending. But I think the best way to think about is that, it really depends on how faster growing to some extent and how fast the opportunities to become more efficient are, in terms of your customer service infrastructure.

So I think that we'll leave it, as we said it, that is generally getting more efficient because of the operating opportunities that the network configuration provides us, meaning cloud based services, IP based services, lower CPE. But connected to your other question about non-programming cost, we think that will also go down materially going forward, as a result of our ability to self-service customers and our ability to provide a better customer service experience, which will reduce transactions in general. That reduces capital and it reduces operating costs. So, we actually think we end up in a world with higher margins and lower capital intensity.

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

Just add one thing to that, Jonathan, in case you're modeling it, which I suspect you will be. The OpEx per customer relationship is going to come down materially, as Tom said. Depending on growth, if you're -- today we're growing customer relationships by 3.5%, I mean, our goal is to accelerate that customer relationship. So, when we talk about the cost per, it's really in the context of cost per relationship having a material decline.

Given the fact that we had elevated bad debt last year and that's now behind us, I do think there's an opportunity to also reduce it on a gross basis, but I think the key point here is tied to customer relationship growth and the cost per customer relationship is going to decline substantially this year.

Jonathan Chaplin -- New Street Research -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much.


Your next question today will come from Ben Swinburne first Morgan Stanley. Your line is open.

Benjamin Swinburne -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you. Good morning. Just sticking with CapEx, Tom could you talk a little bit about your vision for the video business, particularly it relates to sort of bring your own device, you guys have that Apple announcement recently. It seems like that's becoming a bigger part of how the customer is consuming your product. I know your app is a top app on Roku.

Could you just sort of theoretically and philosophically, how do you think about embracing that change and what it means to the business? And then just for Chris, the CapEx step down in '19 on cable is more significant at least that we were expecting. We knew about 3.1 rolling off all digital, but those are relatively modest numbers in the grand scheme of the decline, you're pointing out and if you could just enumerate the other drivers of that step down that are material just to help us think about, what happens over the longer term that would be helpful.

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Ben. So, on the video business, which we've talked about a lot. Obviously the video business is going through changes, but there's a lot of consistency as well, in the video business in terms of the way, bundle package Is still remain the primaries services that we offer. I think we embrace where the marketplace is going, and we want to have people use video services on our network and we think there are ways for us to be in the connected video business, in a way that continues to provide incremental margins for us being in that business.

At the same time using the video business to drive our core business, which is connectivity. And the mix of direct to consumer and the mix of direct to consumer hardware Bring Your Own Device in the video space, I think will change through time and we are going to allow it to change as the market dictates, and try to make our products work best on every device that we provide. There are still significant opportunities for us providing CPE devices to consumers and bringing all of their device, all of their services together in one consistent way.

That said, there are consumers who definitely want CPN, they are maybe CPE vendors that create great CPE and we're open to being a supermarket of video services, however, those services develop. And we think of that, that we can run our traditional models and new models simultaneously. And when we look at video usage on our network, it's actually going up.

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

Ben, on the CapEx step down, the question related to the amount of the -- the significant amount of step down, which is already going to start to occur in the first quarter of this year. You hit it some of the big ones on the head, it's all digital, it's now complete DOCSIS 3.1, it's now complete.

Another item is that the SPP migration naturally starts to slow. We now have over 70% of the acquired customers that are now migrating already into SPP and just as you get further up the curve that level of migration slows. We've been in 2.5 years of pretty intense integration and a lot of those integration programs have either completed or the heavy expenditure related when is completed.

I'll give you one big example lot of the software development that we've talked about in order to be able to put all of the call center and field operations into a national standardized virtualized and specialized structure, lot of that spend has occurred and while some of those platforms are still being rolled out through 2019 and are capital associated with that the level of CapEx attached to that is lower. Same thing would apply for a lot of the in-sourcing, where we've done, where there's tools, trucks -- tools and equipment.

And the big one there is also real estate, when we think about call centers, it doesn't mean that some of that activity is not still going on in 2019 and it is -- but it's just at a significantly lower level. So, those are big programs that are either wound up or winding up. There are a couple of other trends that exist inside the business that will be continuing to go forward to improve the capital expenditure per passing, or the capital expenditure per customer relationship.

Some of it also ties to OpEx as well as, we are increasing our self installation rate. So that has a impact both on OpEx as well as CapEx. And then the other areas that for a lot of the reasons that Tom just mentioned, we are having a lower amount of new video CPE per installation. Some of that comes about because the market trends that Tom was talking about and our ability to service that marketplace.

The other piece comes from the fact that we just deployed, so much new CPE in the context of all digital and through the SPP migration that you have a fully populated base of really capable video set-top boxes that are both qualm and IP capable in the marketplace. That means on the Internet when you're replacing a churning customer with a new customer they need to go out and buy new CPE is significant reduced for what it's been in the past couple of years.

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

The one thing I would also add is that, the mix of capital that we're allocating in the capital, we do spend is increasing toward the network, which is the Internet and the speed and the capability of the Internet. And so while, the cost provide video, CPE are coming down and the cost to provide customer connectivity in the home and service throughout the home are coming down to the ability to self provision relationships. The actual investment in the network capability itself is going up, all the while capital intensity is coming down in aggregate for all business.

Stefan Anninger -- VP of IR

Thanks, Ben. Michelle, we'll take our next question.


Your next question comes from Doug Mitchelson from Credit Suisse. Your line is open.

Douglas Mitchelson -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Yes, thanks so much. Tom, I know, it's early, but are you seeing the benefits from the reduced service interaction so far in 2019 or perhaps you know better as would be for systems that have already completed customer-facing integration efforts previously. Any comments on your progress on customer comps would be helpful.

And for Chris, I'm a bit confused on margins, if I look at 4Q as advertising it looks like margins are down slightly year-over-year, and you talked about growth in customers, which is good for margins, there was -- and I think you mentioned lower churn, which is good for margins. But I have it right that investment in integration and in-sourcing is still hitting the margins in 4Q and if that's right, how do that process in 2019? Is it good -- in a better right away in 1Q '19, or is it get better throughout the year. Thanks.

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, on the cost of service, Doug, we did say in the fourth quarter that we saw churn reductions, and those churn reductions come from our ability to manage the operation better including, how we create new customers. But also the quality of the service infrastructure that we're providing and its impact on customer life. And so to the extent that, we're able to create a satisfied customer base by creating products at reasonable prices that have low friction in them, from a relationship perspective, meaning we have less service calls and we will have less friction in the transaction and scheduling of activity that creates an environment, where the average customer life gets greater may and you have less transactions per consumer and that means that you have less cost per consumer.

And so you can have -- so in a static environment without growth, you get significant margin improvements and in a growth environment, you get a less expensive growth environment. And so that's how we see the business developing, and why we made the investments we did.

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

Doug your question on Q4, not looking at the analysis that you're starting to do. My guess is that, you've either included mobile operating cost and/or you haven't backed out advertising cost associated with political. So, advertising if you just took out the political advertising, but didn't take out the expense related to that, you might be able to get to where you were coming out. But our margins when adjusted for political advertising margin and would have up, when meeting mobile outside increased year-over-year, as it relates to 2019, and our goal for the entire year 2019 is on the cable side to increase our margin, some of that will depend on product mix and the rate of growth, but our goal is to increase margin year-over-year in the cable spot side, despite as you pointed out the lack of political advertising inside 2019.

So, that means organically quite a good development on the margin front. As it relates to quarter-to-quarter, there's seasonality depending on the level of connects, typical in most cable companies Q1 through Q4. So, I'd rather not get drawn into the seasonality and sequential development, but for the full year that's our goal subject to some of the caveats I mentioned.

Douglas Mitchelson -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

All right. Thanks that helpful.

Stefan Anninger -- VP of IR

Thanks Doug. Michelle, next question please.


Your next question comes from Jessica Reif from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Your line is open.

Jessica Reif -- Bank of America. -- Analyst

Thank you. A couple of questions. First, I guess the video question. NBC use direct-to-consumer potential offer, it seems really interesting for the PayTV industry. I was just wondering, what your view is on that service as a churn reducer, or a revenue generator?

On advertising, I mean, your growth, while it may have been expensive, your growth it's really at the top end of anybody's numbers. So, wondering what you're doing differently?

And then finally in 5G, would love to get your reaction to what AT&T suggested on their call, that 5G will replace the export bans. Can you talk about your views of Charter positioning, as 5G rolls out?

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. There's a lot there. On NBC new opportunity, I think, they have a good point and there is a huge opportunity in creating an advertiser-generated programming services for the business and they are less expensive. And so I think there's details to work out there. But I think conceptually it makes a lot of sense.

In terms of our ad sales growth, I do think, we have created using analytics and other methods a better advertising model that allows us to create higher CPMs for our advertising business, and therefore, to generate more money out of that business, than other advertisers in the broadcast space, who don't have those capabilities.

We have a unique two-way interactive plant. We have the ability to target advertising, and to help our advertising customers get more effective advertising in the television space. And we're taking advantage of that. We've also built a great sales force and we're on the streets. And we own a lot of local markets in terms of our capabilities as a sales group. And we've reaped the benefit of that in our ad sales growth in 2018.

With regard to 5G, we're going to 10G and our network is highly capable and we have a pathway to 10-gig symmetrical now specced out that we announced at CES, as an industry. We just went to 1-gig, as you know in 2018 and rolled that out across our footprint. And that's faster than the 5G fixed wireless deployments that have been spoken about so publicly.

And we think that broadband consumption, data consumption will continue to grow at a very fast rate and that our network is easy to upgrade, inexpensive to upgrade and quick to upgrade to take advantage of the future marketplace that this mass of data throughput -- that growth dictates will be required.

So, when we look at 5G, as a fixed mobile business, it is possible to use it that way. It's not very efficient from a capital expenditure perspective in our view, because you need essentially to get -- to spend an awful lot of capital to get close enough to the home to actually make 5G work effectively. So, we're comfortable with our network and its capability. We're comfortable that broadband data consumption will continue to grow rapidly and that we can provide a better broadband experience at less cost than alternatives.

Jessica Reif -- Bank of America. -- Analyst

Thank you.

Stefan Anninger -- VP of IR

Thanks. Next question please, Michelle.


Your next question comes from Vijay A. Jayant, from Evercore. Your line is open.

Vijay Jayant -- Evercore -- Analyst

Thanks. Just wanted to come back on the video product. Can you just talk about, where we are on kind of the Spectrum Guide roll-out? Has it sort of been a real differentiator in terms of reducing churn and sort of take up?

And then, obviously, your broadband product has really improved over the last year. Can you talk about how share shifts are trending in markets, where there is a fiber alternative by the telcos versus taking your share? Where is really the fight coming out right now? Thank you.

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

So, Vijay, we're rolling our guide out on the increment, as a result of the transaction and the bringing of the networks together, which were all someone incompatible from a CPE and network architectural perspective. We changed our guide architecture to some extent. But we're now rolling it out on the increment, pretty much everywhere, and it is significant improvement. Not that our existing experience in most of our markets isn't good, but the guy that we have is better. And we think without a lot of data yet that it will provide a more lasting experienced for the consumer.

We've also put that guide on our apps and we put the guide in our CPE that was retailing and in the CPE that others are retailing for us. And it's actually getting distributed quite rapidly in that space. So we think it's an excellent consumer experience and we think that it will add to our ability to do what I said earlier in the video business, which is to both sell bundled packages, stream packages, a la carte packages and to do those in a way that is coherent and consumer-friendly across all devices in the home, including our own mobile devices.

In terms of share shift, we continued to shift share pretty much everywhere we operate. And I guess some more than others, but our share is generally with very few exceptions, shifting toward us.

Vijay Jayant -- Evercore -- Analyst

Great. Thank you so much.

Stefan Anninger -- VP of IR

Thanks Vijay. Operator, our next question please.


Your next question comes from Philip Cusick from JPMorgan. Your line is open.

Philip Cusick -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Hey, thanks guys. Nice to see that we're coming out of this transition. And I'm thinking about churn, you said churn is coming down, it's what we'd expect. Can you remind us how churn in the Legacy Time Warner and Bright House basis, compare now to Charter? And I'll go from there.

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Chris, why don't you do that?

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

So, across all three legacy entities, Phil churn is coming down year-over-year, which means that Charter just continues to -- Legacy Charter just continues to get better. There's still a market difference between the churn rate Legacy Charter, which is the lowest in TWC and Bright House.

Bright House because it have the Florida market is probably going to have a more elevated churn, just due to the mover ratio that exists in those markets. Otherwise that the service no good effect. That's right.

And so I think there's still a long runway for both TWC and Bright House. And Charter even over the past three and half years has continued to get better and better on a churn ratio. But there's at least 10% differential that exists in the churn rate and Legacy Charter to those other entities.

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

But just to put that in -- you know, in Legacy Charter, the SPP, or the pricing and packaging that we use, is well into the 90 -- high 90% range. And so you get the effect of the lower churn in that environment and we're seeing the churn come down consistent with historic trends in Legacy Charter. But interestingly, Legacy Charter comes down, while Time Warner and Bright House come down. So, the whole trend is improving, but there's still more significant upside in Time Warner.

Philip Cusick -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

And the first derivative is bad debt. Can you remind us, where bad debt was, sort of, early in the process versus in 4Q, and I guess that will continue to come down as well?

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

Fourth quarter was a reduction year-over-year and I expect that to improve.

Philip Cusick -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

And last thing, you were very clear that the fourth quarter was a tough comp year-over-year on subs, should we think of 1Q as a fairly easy comp, or is anything else going on, we should consider?

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

I wouldn't call it an easy comp, but the things that we've always said before, I want to make clear that project rates that the -- just because you hit January 1st and a lot of these programs and a lot of this disruption has slowed down quite a bit, doesn't mean that there's a complete seismic shift overnight.

And similar to what we saw Legacy Charter, there's momentum that gets built up in the marketplace. And those customers existing or non-subs don't wake up in January 1st and say now that disruption has stopped, and let me either retain the service or subscribe. So, I think it's still going to be a continuous improvement over longer periods of time.

And I think looking at single quarters as the indication of long-term success of the operating strategy isn't really the right way to do it. So, I'm not saying it's an easier or difficult comp, but I don't think that there is anything that makes it an easy comp in Q1 year-over-year and we expect to continue to improve throughout the year.

Philip Cusick -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Thanks very much.

Stefan Anninger -- VP of IR

Thanks Phil. Operator, next question please.


Your next question comes from John Hodulik from UBS. Your line is open.

John Hodulik -- UBS -- Analyst

Great. Maybe you guys, if you could just talk a little bit about the ramifications of your new way of selling voice, substituting the wireless into the wireline. First of all, does it -- does that mean we should see accelerating losses on the traditional voice side, or are we at the right run rate?

And then two, is there any margin implications? Or would that be swamped by what you guys are doing on the non-programming side?

And I guess maybe just wrapping it up together in terms of margins, I mean you still show a sort of meaningful gap in terms of overall margins, cable margins versus say your larger competitor. I mean, how do we expect that to trend over time? And is there any reason, why that gap shouldn't close you guys get through these duplicative costs and see all the initiatives you're doing on the non-programming side play out? Thanks.

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, yes. I'll speak to the mobile selling question. Yes, it's a significant transaction change, which changed in our model, and yes it has implications to wireline. We've seen -- as you know we -- as part of that we reduced the cost of wireline to less than $10 with the idea that it was a bolt-on product to a triple play with mobile.

And so it has some implications to what will happen to wireline sell-in. We look at our wireline performance relative to all other wireline providers, it's significantly better. But how much of an impact that marketing change will have against the general trend of wireline substitution hard to say. But we don't think it's that material driver to our economic performance and we do think it's a good value for a lot of consumers.

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

I think it gives you a good retention price point over time. And those new customers coming in, they are not subject to the same rate roll-off discussion, because it's a $10 add-on both at promotion as well as at roll-off and so it's always a tack-on value-added services in that $10, it's less attractive to turn it off at a later point in time.

In terms of the margin applications, John, in the majority of our markets, our double play acquisition pricing is at $90, whereas our triple play in the majority of our markets used to be $90. So, I don't think there's any dramatic margin implications on an incremental business going forward of what we're doing.

So, we sell double play in majority of our markets in video and Internet at $90, plus mobile add-on to the extent somebody values the voice -- fixed-line voice service, it's a $10 tack-on from there versus an attractive price. And it's not subject to some of the roll-off churn that you would've seen in the past.

In terms of the cable margin gap, I don't see anything between us and, for example, another large-scale cable operator that prevents us from being able to get to similar cable margins over time. The only caveat I'd say is that, we are a pure-play cable operator, which means all of our corporate and overhead costs are embedded inside us, when you look at cable for us, it's there. So, there's a bit of a dissimilarity, which is inherent, if we were a conglomerate had a whole host of different businesses.

And Tom Rutledge and Chris Winfrey equivalents wouldn't be inside the cable business per se. But--

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

We're not knocking -- knocking the margins down that much.

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

No. So, that's good. So, that's the only thing I'd add. But I think as a general notion, we've always said, that we thought there was an ability to, despite having programming cost increases year-over-year to be in a business that could generate over 40% EBITDA margins in cable and our view on that.

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

And still be a growth business.

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

And still be a growth business. In our view on that hasn't changed.

John Hodulik -- UBS -- Analyst

Okay, great. Thanks guys.

Stefan Anninger -- VP of IR

Thanks, John. Operator, we have time for one last question, please.


Okay. So, our final question today will come from Amy Yong from Macquarie. Your line is open.

Amy Yong -- Macquarie -- Analyst

Thanks. Chris, I guess, just following up on the voice question. Can you help us think through ARPU going forward. There just seems to be a lot of moving parts. It looks like you pushed through a surcharge, but you're obviously also retooling the sales process. Just wondering how we should think about going forward? Thank you.

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Look the, given what I just said to John, I don't think the voice changed itself from the total relationship perspective. It's going to have that much impact on customer relationship ARPU. If anything, you might argue that it could be slightly positive. But the GAAP allocation of revenue among these products is a hornet's nest. And I, for years, that I think the best way to take a look at what's happening with ARPU, is take a look at ARPU per customer relationship and the trend there.

And when you get down to that, then it's pretty simple. You have the promotional pricing of the bundle of products you sell, you have the roll-off, you have any rate increases. And the big one that folds in there, which is pretty easy to model is the amount of single play Internet sell-in, which even though it's attractive, has the impact of lowering your per relationship ARPU. And that is the biggest offset to the other factors that I just mentioned.

I would not try to model individual product line ARPUs, because I think it's a pretty deep GAAP allocation question. I'm not sure if that's useful to the public. I think the customer relationship ARPUs is the way to look at it, which is why we talked about that metric as opposed to some of the others.

Amy Yong -- Macquarie -- Analyst

Got it. Thank you.

Stefan Anninger -- VP of IR

Thanks, Amy. That concludes our call. Thanks everyone.

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, everyone.

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.


Thank you, everyone. This will conclude today's conference call. You may now disconnect.

Duration: 55 minutes

Call participants:

Stefan Anninger -- VP of IR

Thomas M. Rutledge -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Chris Winfrey -- Chief Financial Officer

Jonathan Chaplin -- New Street Research -- Analyst

Benjamin Swinburne -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Douglas Mitchelson -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Jessica Reif -- Bank of America. -- Analyst

Vijay Jayant -- Evercore -- Analyst

Philip Cusick -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

John Hodulik -- UBS -- Analyst

Amy Yong -- Macquarie -- Analyst

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