This could be disquieting for Viacom, even though Cable One — owned by Graham Holdings Co. — is small fry in the cable playground. Cable One made noise in April when it stopped carrying 15 Viacom channels saying that they had become too expensive with programming that’s too easy to find online. Here’s one consequence: It ended Q3 with 476,233 video subs – down 15.1% from the same period last year — according to GHC’s earnings report out today.
But Cable One doesn’t seem to mind, largely because profits went up, which GHC attributed to the 4% decline in its operating expenses. It eeked out a 1% increase in operating income to $40.1 million. That gave the cable operation an operating profit margin of 20.5% on revenues of $195.7M, up from a 19.6% margin on $202.4M last year. The cable unit says it “continues its focus on higher margin businesses, namely high-speed data and business sales.” With programming costs rising, “video sales now have less value and emphasis.” In addition, cable “continues its focus on higher lifetime value customers who are less attracted by discounting, require less support and churn less.”
A Viacom spokesperson says that “despite CableOne’s positioning, the dramatic sub losses they have endured, do not reflect a successful business strategy or a model for others.”
Still, Guggenheim Securities’ Michael Morris says the results are “significant for the broader industry,” despite Cable One’s small size. “We believe investors and other pay TV distributors are closely watching the impact of not carrying the Viacom networks on Cable One.” Although big cable operators have different operating metrics than smaller ones do, Cable One’s stable financial report is “a relative negative as [Viacom] negotiates future carriage agreements.”
GHC was known as The Washington Post Co before it sold the namesake newspaper to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos last year.