Cable operators brace for Hurricane Sandy

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With Hurricane Sandy expected to spark widespread power outages and flooding in the northeast, Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and other pay TV providers were racing Monday to prepare for damage to their networks from the storm.

Weather Channel hurricane Sandy

(Image source: The Weather Channel)

Time Warner Cable, which counts more than 1 million subscribers in New York City and New Jersey, was rescheduling routine installations in areas impacted by Sandy, spokesman Alex Dudley told FierceCable. Comcast is also rescheduling new installations, spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said.

Comcast is preparing backup generators and other supplies at its facilities, and coordinating with power companies and local and state emergency workers, Moyer said.

"Comcast is preparing for the storm and is ready to support our customers by responding quickly to any impact it may have on our service. We are taking incremental measures to ensure we are best equipped to manage this storm while keeping the safety of our employees and customers a top priority," she added.

Comcast operates systems from Washington, D.C., to Boston that could be impacted by Sandy. Moyer said the MSO has also been placing outbound phone calls to customers in areas expected to be affected to tell them that the company is preparing for the storm, and explain how they can learn about outages in their area. The MSO offers subscribers the option to receive text messages about outages, and will also post information about outages online at comcast.com/alerts.

Dudley said Time Warner Cable is focused on both the safety of its employees and quickly repairing damage caused by the storm.

"Technicians, trucks and other equipment are being strategically placed to ensure that we are able to respond to issues as rapidly as it is safe to do so. The overwhelming imperative is to make sure that our employees remain safe throughout the storm," Dudley said.

Verizon sent an email to FiOS subscribes on Sunday with information on how it is preparing for the storm, and FiOS TV subscribers received an on-screen alert about Sandy when they turned on their TVs Monday morning. The company said in a statement that said it has also contacted technology vendors and communications equipment providers in advance "so that critical communications equipment and supplies can be prioritized, stocked and shipped expeditiously."

Cablevision and Verizon may face some of the greatest challenges. The companies operate cable systems in towns on the New Jersey Shore and Long Island, which were already beginning to report flooding Monday morning.

"Cablevision is prepared for Hurricane Sandy, and will provide up-to-the-minute information to our customers at Optimum.net. In the event of storm-related impacts, we will work as quickly as possible to assess damage and complete any necessary repairs to our own facilities and in cooperation with local utilities," spokesman Jim Maiella said.

While hurricanes can impact satellite TV reception, that's not stopping DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) from launching a channel dedicated to Sandy coverage. The top satellite TV provider said Monday that its "Hurricane Sandy Information" channel, available on channels 325 and 349, will feature local broadcast news channel reports "until the hurricane has diminished in strength."

Hurricane Sandy could impact the earnings for cable MSOs, as the operators will be forced to increase capital spending to make repairs to their network, and new installs may be delayed. Look for the public cable MSOs to discuss the impact of Sandy during their third-quarter earnings calls. Time Warner Cable is scheduled to report earnings on Wednesday, and Cablevision is scheduled to report earnings on Thursday. Charter Communications, which just opened a new headquarters building in Hartford, Conn.--another city threatened by Sandy--is scheduled to report third-quarter earnings on Nov. 6.

For more:
- see the Verizon release
- see the DirecTV release

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