Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Comcast’s Customers Give The Cable Guy the Boot

carey_cable_guyEven in the worst of times, people are supposed to hold their TVs close to their hearts: Turn off the heat? Sure. But don’t you dare take my cable away.

So this can’t be good: Cable giant Comcast (CMCSA) turned in a fourth-quarter report card this morning that beat Wall Street’s revenue and earnings expectations. But it lost more basic subscribers than analysts had expected, and added fewer higher-end digital subs than expected.

Also out the window: Guidance for the year. “There’s a bit less visibility in the business than usual,” Comcast Chief Financial Officer Michael Angelakis told The Wall Street Journal. “We intend to grow the business in 2009, but we are very focused on expanding our conversation with our investors and shareholders instead of just providing a couple metrics that everyone focuses on.”

The numbers: Excluding a $600 million write-down on Clearwire, Comcast posted earnings of 27 cents a share on revenue of  $8.77 billion; Wall Street had been looking for 22 cents a share and $8.63 billion.

The problem: Comcast lost 233,000 basic cable subs; analysts had been expecting something closer to a 150,000-sub loss. More worrisome, the company added only 247,000 high-priced digital subscribers, which is less than half of what Wall Street was expecting.

And it wasn’t as if Comcast’s customers were ditching HBO and MTV and programming their own TVs via Web services like Hulu and Boxee, either: The company only added 184,000 high-speed data subscribers; Wall Street was looking for 250,000.