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AT&T Profit Falls 9% on Shrinking TV Subscription, Wireless Phone Businesses

AT&T Inc. said Tuesday the number of subscribers to its video services fell by 89,000 in the quarter ended Sept. 30 as customers abandoned its fiber-optic-video and satellite-TV services. The decline was the third quarterly drop in a row.

The Dallas-based company has made a big push in media and entertainment as its core wireless business stalled.

Already the largest domestic pay-television operator following its acquisition of satellite company DirecTV, AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner , owner of CNN, HBO and the Warner Bros. film and TV studio. The deal, under regulatory review, is expected to close by year’s end.

AT&T said the number of subscribers to its video services fell by 89,000 in the quarter ended Sept. 30, as customers abandoned its fiber-optic-video and satellite-TV services. The decline, the third quarterly drop in a row, came despite 296,000 new accounts on its DirecTV Now service, which streams channels over the internet. DirecTV Now ended the quarter with 787,000 subscribers.

The country’s No. 2 wireless company posted a net loss of 97,000 postpaid phone subscribers, those who are billed monthly and tend to be more profitable. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had projected a loss of 126,000 phone subscribers. Including other devices, AT&T added 117,000 postpaid wireless customers. The company ended the quarter with 138.8 million U.S. wireless subscribers.

Verizon Communications Inc., the largest domestic carrier by subscribers, last week said it had added 603,000 postpaid wireless connections in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile US Inc. said Monday it had added 1.3 million subscribers in the third quarter, including 817,000 postpaid subscribers.

The monthly cancellation rate—or churn—for mainstream wireless customers, edged up to 1.07%, from 1.05%, driven by cancellations among tablet users. Looking at phones alone, the cancellation rate was 0.84%, compared with 0.90% in the year-ago quarter.

Overall, third-quarter profit fell 9% to $3 billion, or 49 cents a share. Excluding merger and integration costs and other items, profit was 74 cents a share.

Revenue fell 3% to $39.67 billion. Excluding lost business because of hurricanes and earthquakes, revenue would have been $39.8 billion, the company said.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had projected profit of 63 cents a share, or 75 cents as adjusted, on $40.10 billion in revenue.

The company’s Latin American operations helped improve those results, adding $6.05 billion in operating revenue, up 13% from a year earlier, driven by the Mexican wireless business.


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