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CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, INC. /MO/ filed this Form 425 on 02/05/2016
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FEBRUARY 04, 2016 / 03:00PM GMT, CHTR - Q4 2015 Charter Communications Inc Earnings Call

We'll do that by applying the same customer-friendly operating strategy that Time Warner Cable and Bright House assets, as we migrate those footprints to our Spectrum product, pricing packaging, and customer-friendly operating practices. We finished 2015 with 6.7 million residential and small business customers. For the full year, that base of customers grew by 6%, with residential customer growth growing by 5%, and SMB growing by 17%. We grew our total video customer base by 11,000 relationships in 2015, compared to a loss of 78,000 last year. This is the first time in over a decade that Charter has added video customers over any 12-month period.

Driving that growth is an improved video offering, with better pictures, more HD than satellite, video on demand, and an interactive Guide functionality on every TV outlet, combined with high quality, in-sourced and US-based customer service. All in an easy to understand pricing and packaging structure, which makes our products competitive well beyond the point of sale. We also continued to grow our internet business in 2015. We added nearly 450,000 residential internet customers, up 9% compared to last year.

Our low cost, high speed internet offering provides great value to consumers, whether purchased inside one of our bundles or on a stand-alone basis. Nearly one-third of our total residential customers, close to 2 million customers, are now non-video customers, and that grew about 18% year over year. As of the end of the fourth quarter, nearly 90% of our residential internet customers subscribed to internet service that provided speeds of 60 megabits or more.

We continue to be an industry leader in internet customer growth, by offering high speeds at low price points with no data caps, no usage-based billing, no modem rental fees. And that's been our operating practice for the last four years, and we plan to continue that. In commercial, we also continued to drive accelerating customer growth. After we separated our small business and enterprise segments early last year, we launched new pricing and packaging to both marketplaces, and are seeing the results we expected.

SMB PSU growth accelerated by 30% in 2015, and 47% year over year in the fourth quarter. In time, that accelerating commercial unit growth will drive faster revenue growth, as it has in residential. Business services remains an area of significant long-term opportunity for Charter, and we have demonstrated that we can grow business customers faster with our highly competitive operating strategy. For the full year, we grew our revenue by 7.1%. Excluding advertising, revenue grew by 7.7%, all while taking meaningful lower price increases than in 2014.

Our EBITDA growth, excluding transition costs, grew by 8.5%, and continues to exceed our revenue growth. That EBITDA growth, combined with declining capital intensity, is driving greater free cash flow conversion. We generated approximately $550 million of free cash flow in 2015, up from approximately $170 million last year. Excluding M&A-related costs, our free cash flow was even higher, over $1 billion, up $700 million compared to 2014, on the same basis. So as we continue to grow our EBITDA, and our capital intensity declines, Charter is becoming a meaningful generator of free cash.

In 2016, we have three key priorities. Executing on our core customer growth strategy in both residential and commercial. Making the Spectrum product set even better. And finally, closing and integrating Time Warner Cable and Bright House. Starting with our core customer growth strategy, we remain focused on growing our business by increasing long lasting customer relationships, rather than through just price increases.

We grow loyal customer relationships by going to market with simple, high quality products, Charter Spectrum, which we offer at very affordable prices. And those prices will essentially remain flat in 2016. Over the past four years, we've hired over 7,000 people to help us support our products, with customer service provided by our own people, as opposed to contract labor offshore. In the new Company, we'll need to hire about 20,000 more people to do the same proportionally.

As we train and manage our own employees, we're creating a skilled labor force that is executing higher quality service transactions with our customers when we sell and provision, install, answer billing questions, or handle repairs. Today, nearly 90% of our customer calls are handled onshore and in house, and 95% of our service truck rolls are in house. Those higher quality customer interactions are reducing service transactions, reducing churn, and creating longer customer relationships, supporting greater customer growth and reducing our operating costs.

We're also making Spectrum products even better. Through the course of 2016, we're rolling out our new cloud-based Spectrum Guide. Our initial Spectrum Guide launches are working and scaling well, with positive customer response. Spectrum Guide's more intuitive and feature-rich user interface improves both video search and discovery, fully enables our on-demand offering, and allows us to include internet video in the Guide, which enhances the value of our service.

And because the Guide is cloud-based, and will work across nearly all of our 10 million set top boxes, we can launch and refresh the Guide without purchasing or installing new set top boxes. By avoiding deployment of new boxes, Spectrum Guide minimizes customers' disruption, and accelerates the time to put a modern UI on every outlet. It turns every TV into a connected smart TV, and allows us to integrate third party video services, including over the top providers like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Giving customers the ability to search and view all the content they're interested in, without changing consumer owned hardware or devices.

We're also designing Spectrum Guide for dynamic ad insertion, as a way to enhance targeting, and enable programmers to reduce ad loads with less revenue risk. Over the course of 2016, we'll also expand our On Demand library, with thousands of additional titles, and will continue to improve our capabilities on additional devices, with further live On Demand downloadable content to go.

And in the internet, we're beginning to roll out our Spectrum Wi-Fi, which provides unlimited internet access to residential customers when they're outside the home. All of these product improvements and enhancements will be offered to Time Warner Cable and Bright House customers, so they'll fully benefit from the collective product development of these three companies. Turning to our transactions with Time Warner Cable and Bright House, we've made good progress in working with the regulators and other stakeholders, financing the transactions, and planning the integration.


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