Charter Communications Q4 Loss Higher Than Expected As Programming Costs Rise

It will be interesting to see whether investors cut Charter a break today as its new CEO Tom Rutledge discusses the cable company’s worse than expected Q4 earnings report. Charter reported a net loss of $67M, down from the $85M loss in the period a year ago, on revenues of $1.83B, up 2.8%. The revenue figure is exactly where the Street expected. But the adjusted net loss, at 63 cents a share, far exceeded the 32 cent loss that analysts forecast. Charter says that its programming costs rose $31M due to increased payments to the channels it already carried and the addition of HD and new services including the NFL Network. Even so, the number of video subscribers fell by 45,500 in the quarter, to about 4.1M. Charter notes that the drop is an improvement over the last three months of 2010 when it lost 62,200 video customers. And, like most cable companies, Charter’s making up the difference with new broadband and phone subscribers. “This will be an important year for Charter and our customers,” says Rutledge — who recently jumped from Cablevision. The company is “committed to a high standard of customer service delivery and operational aspects in all aspects of our business and to making the right investment for the future.” Investors have been regaining confidence in Charter since late 2009 when it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Its shares closed yesterday at a record high of $63.43 and are up 39.4% over the last 12 months.

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