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Esteves: Time Warner Cable seeing net subscriber growth in fourth quarter

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Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) is seeing net growth in total video, high-speed data and voice subscribers in the fourth quarter, CFO Irene Esteves said Thursday.

"We're a few weeks into the quarter, and we're a little bit ahead of where we were last year," Esteves said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecoms Conference in Barcelona, Spain. Esteves noted that during the fourth quarter of last year, the MSO saw the most growth in December.

"It's very early in the quarter, and we're talking about a very small number of net subscribers on a very large base," she added.

Time Warner Cable lost 140,000 basic video subscribers during the third quarter, while gaining 85,000 high-speed Internet customers. Its voice subscriber count was flat.

Esteves covered several other topics at the Morgan Stanley conference, from the impact that Time Warner Cable may feel from AT&T's (NYSE: T) U-verse TV expansion plans to feedback on its low-cost TV Essentials package. Here are some highlights:

  • Time Warner Cable expects that AT&T will increase its U-verse TV footprint by 10 percent over the next five years, following its recent announcement that it would spend $14 billion on infrastructure upgrades for its wireline and wireless networks. The telco may increase the its penetration rate in Time Warner Cable markets from 25 percent to 27 percent or 28 percent, she added.
  • The  $30 to $40 monthly TV Essentials programming packages that Time Warner Cable has been selling in a few markets have been a "moderate success," Esteves said. "The great success it has been is getting customers to call us. But once they do, and find out what more that can get for just a bit more money, we tend to move them up the value chain," she added.
  • Esteves called Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) 1-Gig network in Kansas City "an interesting experiment," and said it would be difficult for the Internet giant to profit from expanding its network to other markets. "We don't think Google has found a magic bullet to make that any cheaper to build out," Esteves added, noting that Verizon spent $30 billion to offer FiOS in a limited number of markets.
  • In the last year, Time Warner Cable has fought cable networks such as MSG and local broadcast stations demanding increased fees. The MSO may be forced to drop networks to keep programming costs in check, Esteves suggested. "We've gone dark before, and we'll continue to do that if we think the prices are completely unreasonable," she added.