Three months ago, shares of Cablevision
For starters, a non-cash impairment charge of $354.9 million stemming from the company's satellite operations was booked in the quarter. This writedown marks Cablevision's departure from the money-hemorrhaging venture ($450 million in operating losses during the fourth quarter alone). An earlier decision to spin off the Voom subsidiary, along with a handful of popular cable networks, was scrapped in December. Instead, the company will sell its satellite to Echostar
The sale will aid Echostar in its ongoing battle with nemesis DirecTV
The commitment that Cablevision made to upgrade its network has yielded some of the highest penetration rates for premium services in the cable industry. About 145,000 digital video customers were added during the quarter, and the company ended the year with about two-thirds (577,000) more subscribers than it had at the beginning of the year. It also picked up 93,000 new high-speed Internet customers during the quarter, and the total number of Internet-based digital phone users soared to more than 273,000 from just 29,000 a year ago.
The aggressive marketing of competitively priced ($90) promotional bundles helped drive subscriber growth across all three services. More than half of Cablevision's basic video subscribers have made the switch to digital cable, and nearly one-third of the company's market has enrolled in its high-speed data service. By comparison, industry-leader Comcast
Separately, Cablevision announced that it has simplified the ownership structure of its sports-related properties by agreeing to an asset swap with former partner News Corp.
Under the agreement, News Corp. will get full ownership of Fox Sports Net and Cablevision will assume full ownership of Madison Square Garden. This is how it will work: Cablevision will give News Corp. its 60% interest in Fox Sports Net and several FSN networks. News Corp. will give Cablevision its 40% stake in Madison Square Garden -- a portfolio that includes the New York Knicks and Rangers, FSN Chicago, MSG network, and Radio City Music Hall.
Some see the decision as the opening gambit in a move to put Cablevision on the auction block. Dolan himself seems headed away from his cable roots and toward a satellite foray in the skies. If so, today's stellar subscriber growth numbers would be frosting on the cake to any potential suitor -- Time Warner
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Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter owns none of the companies mentioned.