Comcast’s Alchin: We’ll Get Subs Back

Comcast Corp. co-chief financial officer John Alchin told attendees at an industry conference Wednesday that the No. 1 MSO will win back the 96,000 basic subscribers it lost in the second quarter, but not through drastic measures.

Comcast was hit hard in the second quarter after reporting greater-than-expected basic-subscriber losses. Most analysts had anticipated basic-customer losses in the 50,000 range.

Alchin said that in the seasonally weak second quarter -- when students return home and snowbirds leave for summer residences -- Comcast had expected basic customers to decline by 50,000-75,000.

“We had 25,000-50,000 more of a net loss than perhaps we should have,” he added. “Did that come from more aggressive advertising from the satellite providers? Did that come as a result of [the fact that] we were still winding up the last bit of our rebuild? It’s too early to tell.”

He continued, “But what I would argue is that having 25,000 more disconnects than we should have had on a base of 21.5 million subscribers is absolutely negligible. And there is nothing in our business plan that anticipates going forward losing on an annual basis subs out of our basic-subscriber base. We think there is a rock-solid base there.”

Alchin predicted that at least 200,000 gross additions in the second half of the year would come directly from satellite competitors, but through advanced services like video-on-demand and HDTV, and not dish-buyback programs and long-term pricing discounts.

Subscriber growth won’t necessarily be through acquisition, either. While Comcast is expected to take a look at the Adelphia Communications Corp. properties that come on the block this week, Alchin said it is not a top priority.

Calling the auction process “slow-moving” and “almost clumsy,” although through no fault of Adelphia’s management, Alchin said some properties are attractive to Comcast, but the Philadelphia-based MSO will not pay top dollar for any of them.

“We don’t need to gain any more scale and scope,” he added. “We can be the most disciplined buyer out there. There are certainly properties in the Adelphia portfolio that fit nicely with what we have, but there is nothing there that we have to have.”

He continued, “We can look at these properties and make a very analytical, objective decision about whether or not we will be a player. Obviously, if there is going to be a fire sale, we’d be very interested. But to be the top bidder and to push to the edge to make the acquisition, that’s not needed.”