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Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE:CVC)

Q2 2006 Earnings Conference Call

August 8, 2006 10:00 am ET

Executives

Jim Dolan - President, CEO

Tom Rutledge - COO

Mike Huseby - EVP, CFO

Bret Richter - SVP, Financial Strategy & Development

Josh Sapan - President, CEO Rainbow Media

Analysts

Craig Moffett - Sanford C. Bernstein

Aryeh Bourkoff - UBS

Douglas Shapiro - Banc of America Securities

Jeff Wlodarczak - Wachovia

Vijay Jayant - Lehman Brothers

Doug Mitchelson - Deutsche Bank

Jessica Reif Cohen - Merrill Lynch

Kathy Styponias - Prudential

Presentation

Operator

At this time I would like to welcome everyone to the Cablevision second quarter conference call. (Operator Instructions) It is now my pleasure to turn the floor over to your host, Bret Richter, Senior Vice President, Financial Strategy and Development. Sir, you may begin your conference.

Bret Richter

Thank you, Toni. Good morning and welcome to the Cablevision Systems Corporation's investor conference call. Joining us this morning are members of the Cablevision executive team including Jim Dolan, our President and CEO; Hank Ratner, our Vice Chairman; Tom Rutledge, our Chief Operating Officer; Mike Huseby, our Chief Financial Officer; Josh Sapan, President and CEO Rainbow Media; and John Bickham, President of Cable and Communications.

Earlier today the Company filed a Form 8-K including a press release. Following a brief discussion we will open the call for questions. Please limit these questions to the selected operating and financial measures reported in the press release. If you do not have copies of today's 8-K and press release, you may obtain them from our website at Cablevision.com. This call can also be accessed via our website.

Please take note of the following: the discussion today, including any discussion of the Company's 2006 outlook, may contain statements that constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Investors are cautioned that any such forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance or results and involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ.

Please refer to the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a discussion of risks and uncertainties. The Company disclaims any obligation to update the forward-looking statements that may be discussed during this call. I would now like to introduce Jim Dolan, President and CEO of Cablevision.

Jim Dolan

Good morning. Cablevision continued its strong operating performance in the second quarter, with our operations again delivering significant growth, including double-digit increases in net revenue. Our strategy of growing market share across all of our services led to RGU gains of more than 385,000 for the quarter, our highest RGU gain during the third quarter ever.

Cablevision experienced its ninth consecutive quarter of basic video subscriber growth and we remain extremely pleased with the continued strong demand for our voice product which, as we recently announced, now serves more than 1 million New York area customers.

The Company continues to enjoy industry-leading penetration rates across every one of our cable services. I would like to turn the call over to our Chief Operating Officer, Tom Rutledge, who will discuss the operating performance of our telecommunications segment.

Tom Rutledge

Thank you, Jim. As Jim noted, our core cable business continued its strong operating performance in the second quarter of 2006. The Company’s strong RGU growth and the resulting growth in average revenue per subscriber contributed to the second quarter cable television net revenue growth of 18% over the prior year period.

Our average monthly revenue per subscriber, RPS, exceeded $109 for an increase of $4.77 for the quarter; an increase of $13.79, or 15%, as compared to the prior year period. This represents our 13th consecutive quarter of year-over-year double-digit percentage RPS growth. The $4.77 quarterly increase was driven primarily by our strong RGU growth which, as Jim said, included the addition of more than 385,000 revenue generating units.

Cablevision's RGU growth in the second quarter represented the second-largest RGU increase in the Company's history, following only our first quarter 2006 increase. We were extremely pleased with this quarter's RGU gains which, as Jim stated, are the highest second quarter gains the Company has ever experienced.

Let me now touch briefly on the accomplishments of each of our services. The second quarter marked Cablevision's ninth consecutive quarter of basic video subscriber gain as we added more than 35,000 customers, a 1.2% increase since the first quarter of 2006. This has resulted in the addition of more than 74,000 basic subscribers this year, which we believe demonstrates the success of our marketing strategy.

Our digital video service, iO, added more than 143,000 customers for the quarter. These net additions increased our digital video penetration by 3.8 percentage points sequentially, resulting in an industry-leading 73.2% penetration of basic video subscribers.

The penetration of our digital video product continues to provide the Company numerous benefits including bandwidth recapture opportunities, increased network security and higher RPS.

Our high-definition video subscribers continue to grow as well. At the end of the second quarter we had more than 455,000 high definition customers, up 58,000 or 15% from the first quarter 2006; and 242,000 or 114% from the second quarter of 2005. With the addition of TNT and HD at the end of July, Cablevision now offers 21 high definition services, the highest in the cable industry, at no additional cost to our digital cable customers.

We look forward to the opportunity to seek to resolve the legal disputes relating to our proposed remote storage DVR later this fall. While we cannot predict the timing of a potential resolution, we're anxious to take this necessary step to bring what we believe to be an extremely exciting product to our customers.

Our Optimum Online high speed data service followed its most successful quarter in the first quarter of 2006, with a strong net gain of 85,000 customers in the second quarter. This led to a penetration of homes passed at the end of June of nearly 42%; and today, more than 55% of our video customers are Optimum Online customers.

This clearly demonstrates that despite competitive offerings and discounted DSL offers, our high speed data service continues to experience strong growth as the second quarter 2006 penetration increased by 7.9 points from the second quarter 2005; and 1.8 points from the first quarter of 2006. We believe that we will continue to grow these penetration rates as we roll out product enhancements such as Optimum Online Boost.

Several communities have recently passed the 70% homes passed mark with high speed data. Four years ago our highest penetrated communities had just passed 40% penetration.

Our voice product has also had a strong quarter with the addition of more than 122,000 subscribers. Optimum Voice penetration at the end of June had grown to nearly [22]% and continues to grow at nearly 1 percentage point per month. As Jim noted, we recently surpassed the 1 million customer milestone, now more than 50% of our Optimum Online customers take Optimum Voice.

During the second quarter we launched Optimum Voice World Call, allowing customers to call anywhere on Earth for just $19.95 per month with no hidden fees and no per minute or connection charges. Going forward, Cablevision will continue to explore ways to extend the value of its voice product which remains a key driver in the growth of our entire suite of products, as today more than 98% of all Optimum Voice customers subscribe to three of our products.

We believe the momentum with our voice product and all of Cablevision's products underscores the strength of our competitive position and provides further evidence of the success that Cablevision has had in marketing its suite of services. Today more than half of all new customers that sign up for video subscribe to a three product offer and we expect this trend to continue for the future.

Optimum LightPath continues to successfully market its advanced metro Ethernet services to medium and large-sized businesses and has expanded sales efforts in New Jersey, where significant new growth opportunity exists. Overall LightPath's second quarter net revenue increased 11% to $53 million compared to the prior year period.

Strong Ethernet growth continues to offset flat to declining revenue growth from traditional voice services and data services. We believe that the market demand for metro Ethernet services will continue to grow and LightPath is moving aggressively to take advantage of this opportunity.

Looking ahead, we expect our solid operating performance to continue in 2006. Today we are revising our outlook for certain 2006 annual metrics for cable television as follows: basic video subscriber growth of 3.5% to 4%; revenue generating unit additions of approximately 1.5 million; capital expenditures of $750 million; and revenue growth in the high teens. The Company expects to provide an update for the balance of its previously issued financial guidance when it releases its full second quarter 2006 financial results.

I would now like to turn the call over to Josh Sapan who will discuss Rainbow's operating performance.

Josh Sapan

Thank you, Tom. For the second quarter of 2006 our national programming networks -- AMC, IFC and WE -- increased net revenue 12% to $152 million as compared to the prior year. The quarterly increase in net revenue includes a 14% increase in advertising revenue, driven by higher cash sell out rates. In addition, revenue also benefited from a 10% increase in affiliate revenue compared to the prior year period.

Second quarter 2005 revenues exclude certain affiliate revenue attributable to the quarter that was not recognized due to a contractual dispute until the third quarter 2005, when that dispute was resolved. If this revenue had been recognized in the second quarter 2005, AMC, IFC, WE's second quarter 2006 net revenue would have increased 7%; affiliate revenue would have increased 3%.

A few quarterly highlights include AMC's first-ever original movie event, Broken Trail, a western starring Robert Duval. The miniseries scored a record-breaking 7.63 household rating. It ranked as the highest-rated program in AMC's history and is the most watched program of 2006 among all cable channels. WE's original series, Bridezillas, recently scored the highest-rated original series telecast in that network's history.

Based on our performance to date and our full year view, we are affirming our expectation of net revenue percentage growth rates at AMC, IFC, WE in the high single-digit range. The Company expects to provide an update for the balance of its previously issued financial guidance when it releases its full second quarter 2006 financial results.

Turning now to Rainbow's other programming businesses which primarily include Fox Sports Network Bay Area, Fuse, News 12, IFC Entertainment, Boom HD networks and our VOD services Mag Rack and Sportskool. In connection with the resolution of a contractual dispute with one of its major affiliates, the operations of Fox Sports Network Chicago were shut down in June 2006.

Second quarter net revenue grew 5% to $80 million compared to the second quarter of 2005. The increase in net revenue was primarily driven by higher revenue at the regional sports and news networks, IFC Entertainment and Fuse, partially offset by the impact of the 2005 closure of the metro channels.

I would now like to turn it back over to Jim Dolan who will discuss Madison Square Garden.

Jim Dolan

Thank you, Josh. This summer Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are enjoying strong entertainment line-ups including a number of high-profile sell-outs such as a Madonna's six shows. We're also looking forward this fall to re-launching MSG networks with a new programming mix that will cover every facet of what we do at MSG from sports to live events to entertainment.

Turning now to MSG's operating performance, second quarter net revenue increased 7% to $162 million compared to the second quarter of 2005. Second quarter revenues were primarily affected by: an increase in net revenue relating to the impact of the 2005-2006 hockey season, as compared to the NHL lockout the prior year; higher network affiliate revenue, as compared to the second quarter 2005, despite the benefit of certain retroactive rate adjustments in second quarter 2005; a reduction in revenue associated with the termination of the New York Mets carriage agreement.

With regard to a new Madison Square Garden, we continue to explore all our options which include a renovation at the current location or a possible move to the Farley Building. We will provide a further update of our plans at the appropriate time.

Bret Richter

Thanks, Jim. Toni, we would now like to open the call up for questions relating to the summary operating and financial measures and related matters included in our press release. I'll note that we will not be answering questions related to the stock option review at this time.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Craig Moffett - Sanford C. Bernstein.

Craig Moffett - Sanford C. Bernstein

Good morning. I wonder if this is within the bounds that you set for the questions to ask. Mike, are there any specific debt covenants that are jeopardized by the inability to release audited financial statements?

For Tom, can you just talk about where the subscribers are coming from that are getting you to raise your subscriber guidance to 3.5% to 4%? Are these coming from satellite? Are they coming from new entrants to the paid TV category and how high can that eventually go?

Jim Dolan

Craig, we can let Tom answer the second part of your question, but we're not going to address the first part.

Craig Moffett - Sanford C. Bernstein

Okay, thanks.

Tom Rutledge

Craig, the subscribers are coming from satellite customers, generally. They are the biggest group of multi-channel consumers in our marketplace and we have a superior video service that has more high-definition channels, local market high-definition channels at a free price; there's no cost to the consumer. So you have HD adoption driving subscribers as well as the triple play. The value proposition with our high-speed data service and voice service combined with our video service makes it a very compelling offer and a value proposition for satellite subscribers.

In addition, in this quarter we're going to be launching additional switched video products. We're going to launch 60 more channels of ethnic programming and I think that will help round out our video package, so that in every sense, it will be superior to satellite.

Craig Moffett - Sanford C. Bernstein

Do you have a sense of, given the kind of growth that you've had, how high the number can conceivably go? I guess the other question is where is Verizon getting subscribers from, because they don't seem to be coming from you?

Tom Rutledge

To my knowledge they really don't have very many subscribers anywhere. But in our market, in the areas that they've been marketing about six months they have achieved approximately 2% penetration. In the total area that they're working they have less than 1%. So Verizon is not taking subscribers from us. I don't believe they're taking significant numbers from satellite either.

Our growth is coming throughout our footprint. It's coming from satellite subscribers, but it's also coming from additional multi-channel homes, people who are buying cable because of the value proposition in total with phone and data.

When you think about somebody who's got a big phone bill and a big AOL bill, if they switch to our service they can end up with a total bill that's less than they had previously and they can add video, voice and data. So it's actually driving new subscribers into the category as well.

How high can it go? 99% of people have television.

Craig Moffett - Sanford C. Bernstein

Okay, thanks, Tom.

Operator

Our next question comes from Aryeh Bourkoff - UBS.

Aryeh Bourkoff - UBS

Thank you very much. Good morning. Just a few questions. Tom, in the past you've updated us on how the ARPU trends look like for the triple play for the year, on the price increases or the up-selling opportunity. Are you seeing any headwinds on that trend? Are you still seeing ARPU levels up $140 plus after a year with a lower churn number? Is that sustainable?

Second question is, what percentage of new customers that cable brings in are triple play customers?

Lastly for Jim, would you revisit looking at strategic options for Rainbow? Obviously your numbers were strong overall. Do you have any sort of tax impediment to looking at options to divest or do something with Rainbow? Thanks.

Tom Rutledge

As far as triple play ARPU and the numbers we've previously talked about, those continue to be maintained. We're moving customers up nicely and that's reflected in our churn numbers. Over 50% of all new acquisitions are triple play.

Jim Dolan

That was quick. We're constantly looking at our strategic options with Rainbow; we have been for some time. I've stated before I'm not comfortable with the position that we hold right now. I feel we need to make more strategic moves. We're not burdened by any tax problems or tax issues in terms of the choices we make there.

Aryeh Bourkoff - UBS

That's very helpful, thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Douglas Shapiro - Banc of America Securities.

Douglas Shapiro - Banc of America Securities

Thanks. I had two things. Tom, I was just wondering, just following up on Aryeh's question there, if you can talk about what your experience has been regarding the propensity of churn to triple play customers, to take the triple play again? What do you think that says about where triple play sell-in is ultimately going to go?

The second question is, obviously you can't report the EBITDA today. I was just wondering if you were able to talk directionally about the operating margins in the cable business. Thanks.

Tom Rutledge

The answer to your second question is no. The first question I'm not sure I understood what you said exactly in terms of triple play churn, sell-in to triple play?

Douglas Shapiro - Banc of America Securities

Well, over time presumably a bigger proportion of the pool of your gross connects will have been former triple play customers. So I was just wondering if you have any experience yet, as people are on the triple play and churn off, how likely they are to take the triple play when they come back on the network?

Tom Rutledge

Well, highly likely. Because they have a rewards program, when they move inside our service which is what you're talking about, does a customer stay at triple play when they move?

Douglas Shapiro - Banc of America Securities

Yes, well, that's the idea.

Tom Rutledge

We have programs to ensure that, but I don't have any numbers that I want to report to you in terms of specific performance. But you're right, through time as your penetration increases of triple play customers, now almost one-third of our customers are triple play. As our product continues to penetrate, the proportion of moving churn that will be triple play will continue to increase and we have programs to ensure that those customers who transfer from one location to another remain customers in good standing, and that they have all the products from one address to the next address.

Douglas Shapiro - Banc of America Securities

Maybe I made the question more complicated than it needed to be. I guess my question ultimately is, where do you think the triple play sell-in ratio can go if it's now, as you said, over 50%?

Tom Rutledge

I don't know how high it can go, but preferably, at some point all of our customers will want all of our products in the triple play will be the standard connection.

Douglas Shapiro - Banc of America Securities

Okay, great. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Jeff Wlodarczak - Wachovia.

Jeff Wlodarczak - Wachovia

Tom, two questions. What's the latest on your small and medium-size business effort? Do all signs still point to a similar ramp to residential beginning in 2007? If you could maybe provide more color on FiOS, how that's going within your market? Thanks.

Tom Rutledge

Well, with regard to business, as I've said in previous calls, we think that there's a big opportunity in the business marketplace for small business services and large business services and we have two strategies for dealing with that. Optimum LightPath is going after medium and large-sized enterprises and Optimum Voice is going after smaller businesses. We have this year begun to ramp that business up in a significant way, now branding and marketing throughout our service footprint and have developed products to sell to small businesses.

We've not yet reported any of the performance of those or broken those performance numbers out of our numbers; but, as I've said previously, the size of the marketplace for small business is almost the size of our cable business. So we think it's a significant opportunity.

We think that the small business community historically has been subject to very high pricing by a very uncompetitive phone business. Now that we're in the marketplace we can provide business class services at residential rates to small businesses. We save small businesses about 60% on their telecom bill. So it's a very compelling offer.

The fact that we have more than 1 million customers now or approximately one-third of subscribers who are also the owners of small businesses subscribe to Optimum Voice at home and know the reliability and quality of the product, the product has legs as it enters the business marketplace.

So we're excited about our prospects but we're not going to report any numbers on this call.

With regard to FiOS, the video franchising has been relatively slow because they've been involved in a national strategy of seeking regulatory relief at the federal level. They haven't gotten that yet, so the area in that video is for sale by FiOS is fairly small relative to our passing space, and there's still a little over 600,000 passings with the Verizon network in front of it constructed and serviceable today. The bulk of that doesn't have video in front of it yet.

So we're doing quite well with our video product. The Verizon product is a "me too" product, it offers nothing new to subscribers. There's really no reason why anyone would want to switch from our service to theirs.

Jeff Wlodarczak - Wachovia

Thanks.

Operator

Our next question comes from Vijay Jayant - Lehman Brothers.

Vijay Jayant - Lehman Brothers

Tom, just to follow up on the prior question. So your Optimum Voice customers for small businesses is in your consumer line for telephony?

Tom Rutledge

Say the last part of that again?

Vijay Jayant - Lehman Brothers

Is that in your consumer segment for the telephony line, in terms of subscribers?

Tom Rutledge

Subscribers are.

Vijay Jayant - Lehman Brothers

You're not willing to reveal what that is right now?

Tom Rutledge

It's not in line form, subscribers.

Vijay Jayant - Lehman Brothers

Following up on FiOS, forget the video side on the data product. Are you seeing anything happening in your markets? Any updates on the broadband side from FiOS?

Tom Rutledge

Our share of broadband continues to remain unchanged, meaning the share that we're taking with both FiOS and the new DSL pricing that we've seen in the market, our share of new high speed data adoption has not declined at all. It remains constant.

Vijay Jayant - Lehman Brothers

Great, thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Doug Mitchelson - Deutsche Bank Securities.

Doug Mitchelson - Deutsche Bank

Thank you very much. Are you able to tell us how much debt and cash you had at the end of the quarter?

On safer operating questions, Tom, has the network DVR situation sparked any more productive discussions with content owners on VoD given the number of online TV show distribution deals getting done?

Also for Tom, I'm just curious if you have how much the SAC cost has settled out at for a triple play? Thanks.

Mike Huseby

Doug, this is Mike. As it relates to the first part of your question on how much debt or cash we may have or have had at the end of June, as we disclosed in our 8-K, because this review is still in process we're not releasing our full financial results. We've released revenue which is an important measure because we're highly confident that the outcome of the review will not directly impact reported revenue, we thought it was important to get that out along with our subscriber information.

We don't want to release financial information on a piecemeal basis other than what we've put in today's release, so we're not going to answer any of those questions, unfortunately, today.

Tom Rutledge

Which I guess means I won't answer the SAC question. With regard to the network DVR, we have some litigation around that. We're proceeding with that in a workman-like way and hope to have that resolved this year. How that affects the proliferation of new video offerings and our ability to enter into arrangements to sell them, I'm not really sure. The world is changing rapidly.

We do think that the network DVR would be a good thing for content owners and not only do we think it's legal, but we think it is efficient and good for consumers, but we think that it creates an opportunity for new products to be developed that do require rights; and those rights would benefit content owners. So we're looking forward to working with content owners in creating new products regardless of the outcome of the network DVR litigation.

Doug Mitchelson - Deutsche Bank

So is it fair to say from those comments that VoD discussions are kind of on hold pending the litigation?

Tom Rutledge

No, we continue to have VoD discussions and we think VoD is a viable business; subscription VoD is a great business. We have continued in our Rainbow operation to continue to develop VoD products. So there's nothing about DVR, network DVR that in any way precludes VoD. VoD in fact could be enhanced by network DVRs, and network DVRs can create new opportunities for sellers of VoD product to get more subscribers.

We have not put anything on hold. In fact, we continue to increase our discussions with various content owners by developing new product forms.

Doug Mitchelson - Deutsche Bank

Great, thanks.

Operator

Our next question comes from Jessica Reif Cohen - Merrill Lynch.

Jessica Reif Cohen - Merrill Lynch

Thank you. A couple of questions. One, what is the DBS penetration in your market currently?

Second, given your current voice penetration, which I think is probably above what most people expected over the next few years, do you feel like that 1% per month increase in penetration will continue? Where do you think you can go with this product?

Third, could you give any sense of timing for the investigation or when you might release earnings?

Tom Rutledge

I'll talk about DBS and voice growth rates. DBS penetration in our market, we're not exactly sure what it is but it's somewhere between 13% and 15%. We think that is an opportunity, as we look at it, of subscribers who have an inferior product that we're able to market to.

In terms of voice, almost everybody has a voice line so that's another universe of an inferior product currently provided by incumbent phone companies, which we have an opportunity to sell. We're at 22% voice penetration today and we think that there's no reason why anyone would not want to switch their existing voice product to our product.

Jim Dolan

Just with respect to your question on timing of the review when we might be expected to release the full financial results for the second quarter, we disclosed in the 8-K that the review is still in process and we don't want to speculate on when it's going to be over. We need to have it obviously concluded before we release the financial statements and we can't speculate on that.

Jessica Reif Cohen - Merrill Lynch

Thank you.

Bret Richter

Toni, we can take one more question.

Operator

Our final question comes from Kathy Styponias - Prudential.

Kathy Styponias - Prudential

I had a follow-up question as it relates to the network DVR. Without talking specific dollar numbers, could you give us a sense on how much lower your set-top box cost drops with the deployment of a network DVR when you take into consideration the fact that you lose the hard drive but you need more [QUOM]? That potentially if you do come to agreement with the content players that there might be some sort of revenue-sharing opportunity? How does that translate? What percent decline could we expect to see in boxes if the network DVR becomes more prevalent? Thanks.

Tom Rutledge

I don't have a specific number that I can give you for that. But we think it's generally more economically efficient to not have the hard drive in the set-top box and to have it centrally stored.

In terms of what is being litigated we are seeking the right -- or we believe we have the right -- to use a network DVR just like regular DVRs use in the household or distributed DVRs, and they pay no license fees. So we're not looking at the network DVR as something to share with content owners.

The opportunity though of a network DVR is that as it's put in place new opportunities can be developed to create new products which would be shared with content owners, so that's really additive to our network DVR strategy.

Bret Richter

Thank you for joining us this near morning. Kathy, did you have a follow-up? Sorry.

Kathy Styponias - Prudential

Whether the economics are even that much more attractive when it comes to, could you do HD with a network DVR? Does it look even more attractive when you do that from a box cost perspective?

Tom Rutledge

Yes.

Kathy Styponias - Prudential

Okay, thank you.

Jim Dolan

Okay. Thank you all for joining us this morning. This conference call will be available on our website and on StreetEvents.com through August 15th.

Operator

Thank you. This does conclude today's Cablevision conference call. You may disconnect your lines at this time and have a wonderful day.

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