Charter adds mobile phone, small business TV customers

The logo of Charter Communications, which offers broadband Internet and pay television service under the Spectrum brand.
The logo of Charter Communications, which offers broadband Internet and pay television service under the Spectrum brand. (Logo courtesy Charter Communications, Graphic designed by The Desk)

Charter Communications grew its wireless business to over 4.7 million phone lines during its most-recent financial quarter, the company disclosed in its earnings report released on Thursday.

The number represented a year-over-year increase of 1.7 million phone lines and an increase of 600,000 phone lines compared to the previous financial quarter. Charter sells access to Verizon’s wireless network under the Spectrum Mobile brand, which offers low-cost phone service to its Spectrum broadband Internet and pay television customers.

On the video side of the business, Charter said the number of residential Spectrum TV customers shrank by nearly 4 percent compared to last year, with the company reporting just over 14.64 million cable TV subscribers. Overall, Spectrum TV says it has 15.29 million pay television subscribers, which includes residential and small business customers. Charter says it saw more small business customers signing up for cable television during its most-recent quarter, with around 649,000 small businesses paying for Spectrum TV, a year-over-year increase of 7.5 percent.

Overall, Charter said it generated $1.19 billion, or about $7.38 per share, during its most-recent financial quarter. The income missed Wall Street estimates of $8.21 per share.

Charter is in the midst of a corporate shake-up after its long-time chief executive officer, Tom Rutledge, announced his intention to retire by the beginning of December. Chris Winfrey, who serves as Charter’s chief operating officer, is expected to be elevated to the CEO position on December 1.

“It’s been personally fulfilling to lead Charter over the last 10 years,” Rutledge said Friday during a conference call with investors. “We’ve grown our company through innovation and strategic investments that position Charter to provide the best connectivity products and services available today everywhere we operate,”

During his decade-long tenure at the company, Rutledge helped grow Charter to become the second-biggest pay television and broadband Internet company in the country, made possible in part by Charter’s $60 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable. Rutledge also pushed Charter into the wireless phone space through a partnership with Verizon, with the Spectrum Mobile brand becoming one of the fastest-growing sector within Charter’s business.

On Friday, Rutledge said Charter still has plenty of room to grow its broadband and mobile sectors.

“Today, we only captured 28 percent of the combined household spend on wireline and mobile connectivity within our footprint,” Rutledge revealed. “So we remain significantly under-penetrated versus the opportunity in front of us.”

Like other pay television companies, Charter has shifted its business focus away from traditional cable television toward broadband Internet products, with the company investing hundreds of millions of dollars in building out its next-generation Internet platform. On Friday, Charter said its residential broadband Internet business grew 1.3 percent year-over-year to land at over 28.3 million customers. Another 2 million small businesses subscribe to Charter’s Spectrum internet service, a year-over-year increase of nearly 4 percent.

Rutledge said Charter’s broadband Internet service powers nearly 500 million connected devices, “the vast majority of which are connected to us wirelessly.”

“Ultimately, I expect that virtually all devices connected to our network will connect wirelessly. To continue to improve our services, we also remain focused on evolving our network to offer the fastest speeds in the most cost and time-efficient manner,” Rutledge said, noting that the company continues to invest in new infrastructure and technology that should allow the company “to offer our customers higher symmetrical speeds and multi-gigabit speeds in the downstream.”