UPDATE 2-Canada's Shaw Commun posts profit, but loses more TV customers

Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:10pm EST
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO Jan 14 (Reuters) - Western Canada-focused Shaw Communications Inc posted a 4 percent rise in first-quarter profit on Tuesday, but it continued to lose customers in its main cable television business, sending its shares almost 2 percent lower.

The Calgary, Alberta-based cable company, which is facing tough competition for TV and Internet customers from telecom rival Telus Corp and a burgeoning threat from online alternatives such as Netflix Inc, said it lost 29,619 cable-TV subscribers and 9,323 satellite TV customers.

It added 2,746 Internet subscribers and 1,351 landline telephone subscribers in the quarter, which ended on Nov 30.

The subscriber numbers missed or barely met analyst expectations, while Shaw said it was more focused on raising prices for its services than growing its subscriber base.

"Customers have choices," Shaw's Chief Operating Officer Jay Mehr told analysts on a conference call. "I'm not sure we would use that word (cord-cutting) but for sure, some of our voice customers are staying with us and disconnecting their voice, and for sure some of our video customers are staying with us on Internet and moving to other ways to receive video."

Shaw, with 2.9 million TV customers, has sought to hold back on steep discounting to counter the threats, instead upgrading the speed and quality of its broadband and adding other features to its TV product.

"Our performance was driven by growth in our commercial business, discipline around customer acquisition, and strength in our Internet business," CEO Brad Shaw said in a statement.   Continued...