Jim Robbins, president and chief executive officer of Cox Communications, described the looming battle between Comcast and Disney as "media theater," but said that he wished both companies well. He squashed any question that Cox would wade any further into content than it already does, which includes investment in the Discovery Channel. Cox remains squarely behind its focus of distribution, with 6 million basic cable subscribers, millions more digital cable customers, and 2 million broadband subscribers.
"We're going to stick to our knitting," Robbins said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts Thursday morning.
"We think our experience is in the distribution business. We have been consistent in that," Robbins said. "I don't think our minds change one iota from yesterday's announcement. We think the economies of scale that are available on an integrated basis come in programming and come in purchasing, but this is really a regional business. But by operating very, very well on a regional basis, we think we're going to do well."
The Atlanta-based cable and broadband company posted an $11.3 million loss, 2 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2003 compared to a profit of $179.6 million, 29 cents a share, a year ago. The loss was tied to Cox's $450 million repurchase of debt. Revenues grew 12 percent to $1.5 billion in the quarter, compared to $1.3 billion a year earlier.
Leading revenue growth was high-speed Internet and telephone services, which both grew in double digits in the quarter. Data revenues rose 40 percent, from $170.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2002 to $238.7 million a year later. More than 144,000 high-speed Internet customers were added in the quarter, and Cox finished 2003 with more than 2.1 million high-speed data customers--up 41 percent from the end of 2002.
Cox added 83,000 digital video customers in the fourth quarter and 350,000 in 2003, to finish with 2.1 million customers on Dec. 31.
"The results we posted today clearly prove Cox can survive in a challenging environment," Robbins said.