How significant? Time Warner Cable reported last Wednesday (Feb. 4) that it lost a net 119,000 basic-video customers in the fourth quarter, more than double the 50,000 shed in the same period in 2007. Even with Britt's warning, analysts had been expecting something in the range of 50,000 basic losses. TWC ended the year with about 14.6 million customers taking at least one service.
Britt's company also joined the roster of firms cutting back jobs amid the worst economic environment in decades. TWC said it planned to cut 1,250 employees in coming weeks to pare costs, a reduction of about 2.7% of the 46,000 employees it has overall, according to its corporate Web site.
Analysts had expected declines in subscriber growth as the recession gathers steam, and the fourth quarter was the first period to include the full impact of the stock market slide and resulting economic turmoil since September.
TWC's overall financial results were in line with most analysts' expectations, but in growth areas like digital telephone and high-speed Internet service, the company fell short of even the most conservative estimates. That could be read as a signal that cable might not weather the economic downturn as well as some had hoped — an outcome that will be watched as other big cable operators report results. Comcast, for example, is scheduled to report earnings on Feb. 18.