Defections Prompt new Subscriber Drive at UK’s Telewest

05 May 2003

US-owned cable operator Telewest vowed to boost its presence in the British pay-TV market after losing customers in the first quarter.

Telewest in recent months has scaled back attempts to gain new subscribers for its cable-TV packages in an effort to reduce costs. Instead, it has focused on its broadband internet service, customers of which rose 37,000 in Q1 to 310,000 while the group’s total subscribers dipped 15,000.

Chief executive Charles Burdick revealed Telewest will change tack for the rest of the year in a bid to raise subscribers to all three of its divisions (phone, TV and internet). “You can’t survive on cost-cutting alone,” he declared.

However, Telewest has a long way to go to catch pay-TV market leader BSkyB. The former has 1.3 million television subscribers; the latter over six million.

The group posted a net loss of £187m ($300m; €268m) in Q1, up 13% from last year; while turnover was up marginally to £335m. EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) rose 15% to £105m.

Telewest has still not agreed its £3.5 billion debt-for-equity financial restructuring with its major creditors, though Burdick insists there is no “crisis”.

The group also played down long-running speculation it is to merge with rival cable firm NTL. Concluded Burdick: “Telewest has a great future as a standalone entity.”

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff