32. Cablevision Systems Corp.

Revenues 2014: $ 6.461 billion (€ 4.863 billion)

General Information

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Headquarters:
1111, Stewart Avenue
Bethpage NY 11714-3581, USA
Telefon: 001 516 803 2300
Telefax: 001 516 803 3134
Internet: www.cablevision.com

Branches: Cable, television, telecommunications, professional sports teams
Legal form: Public Company 
Financial year: 01/01 - 12/31
Founding year: 1973

Table I: Economic Performance ($ Mio.)
2014201320122011201020092008200720062005
Revenues6,4616,2326,705

6,701

7,2317,7737,2306,4845,9275,172
Operating income9216997601,2281,5291,415690911612501

People

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Executives:

  • Charles F. Dolan, Chairman
  • James L. Dolan, President & Chief Executive Officer,
  • Brian G. Sweeney, President & Chief Financial Officer
  • Kristin A. Dolan, Chief Operating Officer
  • Victoria Mink, Senior Vice President, Controller & Principal Accounting Officer
  • Kevin Watson, Senior Vice President and Treasurer


Board of Directors:

  • Charles F. Dolan, Cablevision
  • James L. Dolan, Cablevision
  • Patrick F. Dolan, Cablevision
  • Thomas C. Dolan, Cablevision
  • Marianne Dolan Weber, Dolan Family Foundation
  • Kathleen M. Dolan, Purple Crayon Productions
  • Kristin A. Dolan, Cablevision
  • Rand V. Araskog, RVA Investments
  • Brian G. Sweeney, Cablevision
  • Deborah Dolan-Sweeney, Dolan Children’s Foundation


Major Shareholders: James Dolan, Charles F. Dolan, Thomas Rutledge, Hank Ratner, Kristin A. Dolan (collectively, they hold 10 percent of shares, as of March, 2011).

History

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Cablevision’s founding father ‘Chuck’ Charles Dolan (* 1926) is considered one of the big pioneers of American cable television amongst his competitors. From the mid-50s onwards, Dolan played a crucial role in setting up the Sterling Manhattan Cable company, one of the first cable TV providers in the USA. In 1970, Dolan founded the first national Pay TV channel HBO for Sterling and appointed Gerald Levin (later CEO of Time Warner) to be the head of the company. Under Dolan’s leadership, the company (as Sterling Communications) went public in the early 1970s. The partner and main shareholder Time Inc (80%) (Today: Time Warner) eschewed the high investment cost and liquidated Sterling as early as 1973. HBO was the only part of the company that has been retained by Time Inc.

As a result of which Charles Dolan made the decision to rely on his own two feet for standing in the future, used Sterling’s estate to buy back the New York cable network with 1.500 subscribers for 600,000 $ and founded Long Island Cable Communications Development. It did not take long for the company to expand into New York and Chicago and it was renamed to Cablevision. In 1980, Dolan founded subsidiary Rainbow Programming (later Rainbow Media Holding) and developed cable channel American Movie Classics, Bravo and the very successful SportsChannel. Cablevision went public in 1986. Dolan was in dire need of capital in order to further expand his cable activities, which already sported 600,000 subscribers. Together with NBC, the company founded the economy news channel CNBC, but sold its shares to NBC only two years later.

Due to Dolan’s aggressive expansion strategy when it came to buying cable networks, the company ended up being extremely indebted in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The PPV transmission of the Olympic Summer Games from Barcelona in 1992 alone caused a loss of 50 million $ - a fumble by Dolan, who earned his fair share of mockery as a result. A strategic reorientation resulted in Cablevision focusing on the otherwise successful sports programs and bought the Madison Square Garden (MSG) in a joint venture with the ITT Corp. in 1994 for 1,1 billion $, including the Arena, The New York Knicks, The New York Rangers and the Madison Square Garden Network, a cable channel with more than five million subscribers.

The Independent Film Channel joined the array of cable stations that were combined under the Rainbow Media Holding in the same year. There was quite some talk about a potential merger with US West Media in the mid-1990s, which was bound to fail due to Dolan’s astronomically high financial demands. Probably due to pressure coming from the board of directors, Charles Dolan handed over the company leadership to his son James in 1995, but is still part of the company leadership. Since 1997, Cablevision focuses its cable network activities, which used to operate on a national level, on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. This happened partially through the sale of other cable networks or by means of swapping shares with TCI (Today: AT&T Broadband). Furthermore, the company sold the rights to broadcast sport events to Fox/Liberty (Today the Fox Sports Network by the News Corps), which it acquired through the Rainbow Media in the first place. Fox/Liberty received 40% of MSG and Cablevision in return received shares of Fox Sports Net. In 1998, the company purchased the cinema operator Clearview Cinema and the consumer electronics chain The Wiz. The family company was fundamentally restructured in 1998 and 1999. The majority of activities were bundled into the CSC Holding, the Rainbow Media Holding and the Cablevision Systems NY, which are in turn public subsidiaries of the parent company.

As far as success goes - Following bad results in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Cablevision’s change of course turned out to be a mixed bag. The company was profitable when it came to being a cable provider that concentrated on several connected regions and operated as a close to completely comprehensive provider (for example, 80% of New York City). Ever since, Cablevision successfully offers digital services such as high-speed Internet access and VOIP.

It is because of this ‘Triple-Play’ strategy (TV-Internet-Telephone) that Cablevision is widely considered the vanguard of telecommunications. On the downside, the acquisition of the consumer electronics chain The Wiz did not result in the desired successes. By the end of 1998, Cablevision took over the frail business chain for approx. 100 million $, a quite favourable price, with the intention to make use of its infrastructure to distribute new digital content. The deficient chain had to file for bankruptcy in 2005.

The issue of the Voom satellite service rang the bell for the final round in the ongoing struggle for the leading position in the house of Dolan. Dolan Junior came out on top and forced the withdrawal from the satellite business in 2005, against the will of his father. During a dramatic director’s meeting, the decision was made not to invest any more money into Voom and sell the only satellite to the competitor Echostar Communications. In the first year, the losses caused by Voom totalled at 661 million US Dollars. Satellite dish operator Dish Network now marketed the 21 HD channels of Voom as part of a cooperation agreement. The decision to part with Voom had both operational and familiar consequences: On the one hand, Dolan Sr. replaced three members of the board who had voted in favour of selling the satellite business with yes-men, one being his son-in-law. On the other hand, the relationship between James and his father as well as his brothers Patrick and Thomas, who are also active in the company (the latter had been the head of Voom), was now seriously impaired.
In late July 2007, Cablevision’s board of directors accepted an offer by the Dolan family to privatise the public company. Due to a ‘two-class-structure’ of the stocks, the Dolans already held three quarter of the votes, although they only owned a quarter of the shares. The offer of 36.26 US Dollar per share (Total price, including the acceptance of liabilities: near 23 billion) was the third attempt by the Dolan family to control the Cablevision in its entireness.

But the majority of shareholders who had minority stakes, once again refused their approval of a privatisation in October 2007. The most famous critic was Mario Gabelli, head of ‘Gamco Investors’ and holder of seven percent of shares. He considered the offer of 36 US Dollar per share as too low and suggested a price of 51 US Dollar instead. Investor legend ‘Super Mario’ Gabelli also pointed out that almost two billion of the shareholders’ US Dollars would fall into the hands of the Dolan family. As a reaction to the failed privatisation, Charles Dolan expanded the board of directors by two more family members. By now, eight members of the Dolan clan sit in the gremium, the supposed function of which – being a controlling organ – is rendered ad absurdum. Catherine Bohigian joins the company and is the first person whose job it is to do lobby work in Washington D.C. This personnel note is particularly interesting, because Bohigian is the former counsellor of the FCC chairman, Kevin martin and is still on the payroll of the government institution.

In Summer 2008, Cablevision entered the print business and acquired the New York newspaper ‘Newsday. Cablevision CEO James Dolan was willing to pay the sum of 650 million US-Dollars to Sam Zell, the head of Tribune. He managed to cut out Rupert Murdoch this way, whose News Corp. handed in a lower offer of 580 million US-Dollars. Through this acquisition, Cablevision disposes of excellent cross-medium possibilities, because the company now owns a newspaper in the New York area with a readership of more than three million readers on top of its television channels and sport teams. A positive coverage of all things New York Knicks in the Newsday will probably be the rule in the future.

Management

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Charles Dolan’s son James has been the CEO at the helm of Cablevision for more than ten years now. Under Dolan’s leadership, the cable service established itself as core competency of the company and developed very favourably. No other American provider in the past ever generated more income through subscription payments than Cablevision. Dolan was also responsible for the invention and successful launch of the ‘TriplePlay-Services’ (Internet, Telephone, Digital TV).

Jim Dolan is not really known as amiable and collegial. Former employees paint a grim picture of Dolan’s leadership style. Dolan allegedly is an ignorant, egomaniac boss, who treats his employees like dirt, such goes the talk of former subordinates. It is a fact that the former drug and alcohol addict is choleric, and he banned himself from talking to the press due to his frequent verbal impetuosities. One legendary incident happened in 2005, when MSG Network-CEO Mike McCarthy confronted the Cablevision boss with the increased transmission cost for the New York Ranger’s hockey games. Dolan went berserk and McCarthy stepped down only a few hours after the meeting.

Dolan Jr. is a passionate rock musician in his free time and he used to be a roadie for several garage bands as a youth. He recently signed a record deal at Warner Music with his band ‘JD & the straight shot’. The reason for this was probably not as much the artistic potential but the friendship with the former Universal boss and current Warner music head Edgar Bronfman Jr.

Business Fields

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Cable Networks
The Optimum company branch supplies about 3,1 million customers and 600,000 companies in the area of New York with digital television via glass fibre connections (‘iO Interactive Optimum), 2.9 million customers with high-speed Internet (‘Optimum-Online’) and 1.9 million customers with digital telephone services (‘Optimum Voice’). The television programs available to the cable customers are being broadcasted in HD at an increasing rate (ESPNU, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Disney XD, ESPNEWS). In March 2011, Cablevision was the first provider ever to broadcast a sport event in 3D with the ice hockey match between the New York Rangers vs. Islanders.

Furthermore, the company completed the first phase of upgrading the wireless network in the area of New York in 2008. The expansion of the network, which benefits existing Cablevision customers free of charge, is part of the ‘WiFi Project’ that also includes Comcast and Time Warner Cable. In June 2009. The company announced in that a total of two million customers would already be taking advantage of surfing the Internet while travelling. 70 percent of new Internet customers in the fourth quarter opted for Cablevision, primarily because of the broadband service on the go.
In Autumn 2009, Cablevision and its telecommunication competitors Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and others applied for the commission to provide the broadband access for regional railway traffic in New York. This bidding is for a rail network that is used by 750,000 people on a daily basis, whose travel time amounts to 45 on average. 

Television
The subsidiary Rainbow Media Holding LLC, producing television programs and entertainment formats for almost 25 years, is scheduled to be outsourced from Cablevision. The new, independent company will be renamed to AMC Networks Inc and Josh Sapan will remain the television segment’s CEO.

The centrepiece of Rainbow Media/AMC Networks is the TV station of the same name – AMC (American Movie Classics) – that primarily broadcast classic films but also produces and broadcasts award-winning series such as ‘Mad Men’, ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘The Killing’. ‘Mad Men’ in particular and its 13 Emmy and four Golden Globe awards has become the carthorse over the course of the last three years. And yet, the fifth and sixth series almost never happened. The reason was a boycott by the series’ creator Matthew Weiner who refused to continue the series due to the fact that AMC management planned have two characters in the series ‘die’ to save money as well as introducing more blocks of advertising. Weiner and AMC could agree to continue their collaboration in April 2011.

Other parts of Rainbow/AMC are the television channels Fuse (Music Television), The Independent Film Channel, WE (Women’s Entertainment), as well as majority stakes in Fox Sports Net, MSG Metro and MSG Network. Apart from the worldwide distribution of TV programs via Rainbow Network Communications, the Rainbow Media portfolio includes the video-on-demand service Sportskool, World Picks (international programs in Mandarin, Spanish and Russian), Lifeskool, Starz on Demand and Encore On Demand. Since March 2011, Gothamist is also part of the Rainbow Media family. The selling price of the local blog concerned with the area of New York lay between five and six million US-Dollars.

In June 2008, Rainbow Media acquired the film channel „Sundance Channel“, which had previously been owned in equal parts by NBC Universal, Showtime Networks by CBS and the actor Robert Redford, who was also the director, for 500 million US Dollars. The Sundance channels sports 30 million subscribers and is named after the film festival of the same name and primarily broadcasts independent films and documentaries.

A cooperation with Lions Gate was agreed upon in 2010 as a result of which 139 films by the Canadian media company will be licensed to Rainbow Media.

Madison Square Garden
The Madison Square Garden division (MSG) used to be a part of Cablevision, but was outsourced in March 2010 and became an independent company. MSG includes the complete complex of the famous arena of the same name in New York, as well as the NBA New York Knicks (Basketball), the WNBA New York Liberty (Women’s Basketball) and the NHL New York Rangers (Ice Hockey). The Madison Square Garden L.P. also owns the Hartford Wolf Pack hockey team that is based in Connecticut. Lobbyists have been trying to overthrow the legal prohibition of mixed martial arts events (MMA) in the state of New York since early 2011. Should this endeavour succeed, the fights of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) could be hosted in and broadcasted by the Madison Square Garden – a business worth millions.

The location has also owns its own television channel, MSG Network, which records all games taking palace in the arena and bringing it into the fans’ living rooms. Other buildings that are part of MSG are Radio City Music Hall located within the Rockefeller Center, which has been a home to music, theatre and sports events ever since the 1930s and the Beacon Theatre on Broadway.

By outsourcing the MSG division, the company seeks to focus on its core businesses (cable and Internet services). Furthermore, the spin-off generates far more cash flow for Cablevision: Investors can exchange one stock of MSG for four of Cablevision’s stocks. Another reason for the outsourcing could be that the Dolan family plans to sell the Cablevision Company. Without its sports teams, the particularly slimmer and cable-focussed Cablevision company is much more attractive to potential buyers (such as Time Warner Cable).

Cinemas
The Clearview cinema chain was founded in 1994 and has been part of the Cablevision Company since 1998. Clearview operates 48 cinemas in the area of New York
Local Media
Newly launched in August 2009, the ‘Local Media Unit’ combines Cablevision’s regional print, television and Internet activities which are restricted to the area of New York. Tad Smith, former CEO of the Reed Business Information publisher (part of the Reed Elsevier media company) was made the regional division’s president.

Since 2008, Cablevision’s portfolio is enriched with a newspaper in the form of ‘Newsday’, which is published in the area of New York. In 2008, “Newsday’ was number ten in the rankings of US American newspapers with highest circulation. Cablevision’s Internet customers can access the current newspaper issue free of charge. All others will have to pay from autumn 2009 in order to access the online issue. This particular paid-content strategy that is eagerly observed by the newspaper industry, given that all papers by the News Corp. will supposedly go down the same route, has not turned out to be a success story yet. Three months after erecting the ‘Pay-Wall’, the ‘Newsday’ management had to admit that only a meagre 35 people had been willing to pay 260 US Dollar per year (that is, five US Dollars per week) for an online subscription of the newspaper. From the four million US Dollars - the cost for relaunching the Newsday online issue - only 35 subscribers and 9000 US-Dollars found their way back to Cablevision.

The true motive for launching the pay wall becomes more apparent as time goes by: Cablevision is not even interested in an economically flourishing quality newspaper with lots and lots of readers. Instead, the Dolan family uses ‘Newsday’ for another strategy: It is not the goal to make profit with the Newsday.com subscribers, but prevent the Internet customers of Cablevision form changing providers - a testimonial to the dark chasms pervading the world of the highly consolidated US media system, in which cable companies ended up owing newspapers. Approximately 75 percent of all citizens in Long Island, New York have a flatrate provided by Cablevision. To the inhabitants of Long Island, ‘Newsweek’ is still one of the few regional newspapers. A person living in Long Island, who uses the Newsday online service on a regular basis and uses the Internet flatrate by Cablevision is discouraged from changing providers.

At the same time, the newspaper’s quality level has been decreasing rapidly since the take over through Cablevision as suggested by another weekly magazine from Long Island, the Long Island Press, in a very interesting  Article. Therefore, CEO Dolan managed to make the whole of the newspaper staff turn against him. The reasons are mass dismissals, shortening of wages and longer working hours, which stand in no relation to the company’s profits in the billions generated by the cable business. Furthermore, the Dolan family continuously interferes with the newspaper content. In January 2010 for example, sport journalist John Macini and two others were fired because they discussed the trial against Eddy Curry who was charged with sexual harassment. Eddy Curry is a player of the New York Knicks basketball team that used to be part of Cablevision’s MSG division prior the its outsourcing. Members of the newsroom consider themselves nothing but a marketing tool for other business activities of the Cablevision Company.
The local television activities mainly focus on the News 12 Networks, which consists of seven news channels that report from different districts in New York.

References

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  • Patrick R. Parsons (et. al.), The Cable and Satellite Television Industries, 1998.

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