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|CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, INC. /MO/ filed this Form 10-Q on 08/09/2016|
affect our customers, as well as volatility and disruption in the capital and credit markets, also could adversely affect vendors and third parties and lead to significant increases in prices, reduction in output or the bankruptcy of our vendors or third parties upon which we rely. Any interruption in the services provided by our vendors or by third parties could adversely affect our cash flow, results of operation and financial condition.
We face risks inherent in our commercial business.
We may encounter unforeseen difficulties as we increase the scale of our service offerings to businesses. We sell Internet access, data networking and fiber connectivity to cellular towers and office buildings, video and business voice services to businesses and have increased our focus on growing this business. In order to grow our commercial business, we expect to continue investment in technology, equipment and personnel focused on the commercial business. Commercial business customers often require service level agreements and generally have heightened customer expectations for reliability of services. If our efforts to build the infrastructure to scale the commercial business are not successful, the growth of our commercial services business would be limited. We depend on interconnection and related services provided by certain third parties for the growth of our commercial business. As a result, our ability to implement changes as the services grow may be limited. If we are unable to meet these service level requirements or expectations, our commercial business could be adversely affected. Finally, we expect advances in communications technology, as well as changes in the marketplace and the regulatory and legislative environment. Consequently, we are unable to predict the effect that ongoing or future developments in these areas might have on our voice and commercial businesses and operations.
Programming costs are rising at a much faster rate than wages or inflation, and we may not have the ability to reduce or moderate the growth rates of, or pass on to our customers, our increasing programming costs, which would adversely affect our cash flow and operating margins.
Video programming has been, and is expected to continue to be, our largest operating expense item. In recent years, the cable industry has experienced a rapid escalation in the cost of programming. We expect programming costs to continue to increase because of a variety of factors including amounts paid for retransmission consent, annual increases imposed by programmers with additional selling power as a result of media consolidation, incremental programming, including new sports services, out-of-home or non-linear programming and attempts by programmers to replace advertising revenue they are losing to online marketing options and as a result of declining viewership ratings. The inability to fully pass these programming cost increases on to our customers has had an adverse impact on our cash flow and operating margins associated with the video product. We have programming contracts that have expired and others that will expire at or before the end of 2016. There can be no assurance that these agreements will be renewed on acceptable, favorable or comparable terms, or at all. Two programmers have filed lawsuits against us regarding which legacy programming arrangements apply after the closing of the Transactions, and there can be no assurance that other programmers will not bring similar suits in the future. To the extent that we are unable to reach agreement with programmers on terms that we believe are reasonable, we may be forced to remove such programming channels from our line-up, which could result in a further loss of customers. Our failure to carry programming that is attractive to our subscribers could adversely impact our subscriber levels, operations and financial results. In addition, if our high-speed data subscribers are unable to access desirable content online because content providers block or limit access by our subscribers as a class, our ability to gain and retain subscribers, especially high-speed data subscribers, may be negatively impacted.
Increased demands by owners of some broadcast stations for carriage of other services or payments to those broadcasters for retransmission consent are likely to further increase our programming costs. Federal law allows commercial television broadcast stations to make an election between “must-carry” rights and an alternative “retransmission-consent” regime. When a station opts for the latter, cable operators are not allowed to carry the station’s signal without the station’s permission. In some cases, we carry stations under short-term arrangements while we attempt to negotiate new long-term retransmission agreements. If negotiations with these programmers prove unsuccessful, they could require us to cease carrying their signals, possibly for an indefinite period. Any loss of stations could make our video service less attractive to customers, which could result in less subscription and advertising revenue. In retransmission-consent negotiations, broadcasters often condition consent with respect to one station on carriage of one or more other stations or programming services in which they or their affiliates have an interest. Carriage of these other services, as well as increased fees for retransmission rights, may increase our programming expenses and diminish the amount of capacity we have available to introduce new services, which could have an adverse effect on our business and financial results.
Our inability to respond to technological developments and meet customer demand for new products and services could adversely affect our ability to compete effectively.
We operate in a highly competitive, consumer-driven and rapidly changing environment. Our success is, to a large extent, dependent on our ability to acquire, develop, adopt, upgrade and exploit new and existing technologies to address consumers’ changing