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Cablevision earnings drop, video customers rise

Cablevision, of Bethpage, disclosed its spending and pricing

Cablevision, of Bethpage, disclosed its spending and pricing plans when it discussed its fourth quarter earnings with analysts. Credit: Jack McCoy

Cablevision Systems Corp. added more video subscribers than expected in the first quarter, but its shares fell 8.4 percent as investors balked at the declining profit and cash flow it reported Thursday.

The Bethpage-based cable provider may sell its Clearview Cinemas movie theater chain, chief financial officer Gregg Seibert told investors on a conference call. The chain has 45 theaters in the metropolitan area and Pennsylvania, including the Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan and eight others on Long Island, according to its website.

"It is not a strategic asset for us," Seibert said, adding Cablevision was in the early stages of exploring its options for the chain. Cablevision had previously tried to sell Clearview Cinemas in 2002.

The announcement came after Cablevision said it added 7,000 video subscribers in the January-March quarter, reporting its first gain in new cable TV customers in at least 18 months, driven by a new pricing strategy.

Cablevision, which also owns Newsday, posted first-quarter earnings of $57.2 million, or 21 cents a share, compared with $104 million, or 37 cents a share, a year earlier. The results beat analysts' estimates by 2 cents a share.

But the company's shares fell, analysts said, because investors were worried about its slowing financial growth. Its operating cash flow fell 7.6 percent from a year ago to $513.5 million.

Cablevision said at the end of February that it did not plan to raise prices this year, which surprised investors and sent its shares tumbling more than 10 percent at the time.

The gain of 7,000 cable TV subscribers in the first quarter beat the loss of 7,400 Wall Street analysts were expecting.

The company added 42,000 high-speed data customers, beating estimates of 22,000.

Reuters and staff reports

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