Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei is definitely playing the long game right now.
Speaking virtually at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference on Tuesday, Goei said the large US cableco will likely not pull out of its operating slump this quarter or the next as it ramps up capital spending, installs more fiber lines, opens dozens of retail stores and overhauls its product branding, pricing and promotions. But he predicted that the operator will start generating renewed subscriber, revenue and income gains by 2023 as its new growth strategy begins to pay off.
“We should see some accelerated growth in 2023,” said Goei, whose company unexpectedly shed nearly 13,000 residential broadband subscribers in Q3 2021, along with losing 67,000 video customers and adding just 1,000 mobile subs. “It’s a one-year drop.”
Fielding questions about Altice USA’s turnaround plans, Goei spelled out the MSO’s intention to hike its capital outlays by $500 million to more than $1.7 billion in 2022, spending the bulk of that sum on new fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks. He also spelled out plans to spend an extra $200 million to $300 million on opening up retail stores, hiring door-to-door salespeople and rebranding its broadband and mobile products, among other things.
“We’ve got building blocks, and building blocks take time to deliver,” he said. “This is a medium- to long-term strategy.”
Goei reiterated the company’s plans to pass 1 million more homes with fiber lines in 2022, up from 500,000 new homes this year, followed by more than another 1 million homes in 2023. By the end of that period, Altice USA aims to cover virtually all its Optimum footprint in the Northeast with fiber, enabling it to compete with Verizon’s Fios service on at least an equal footing.
In addition, Altice USA aims to step up its current “edge-out” strategy of expanding its cable plant to areas adjacent to its existing footprint, largely in its rural-focused Suddenlink regions. That part of the growth plan calls for passing another 175,000 households in 2022, all with new fiber lines.
“We’re very confident this is the right strategy we’ve been doing, particularly in the Optimum territories,” Goei said. “We think we’ll see some nice payouts over time.”
Sizing up subsidies
Altice USA is counting on federal and state government aid to fund some of that aggressive expansion strategy, courtesy mainly of the huge federal infrastructure bill that President Biden signed into law last month. Goei said his company is looking to win at least $500 million in government subsidies for its broadband builds and has already applied for $150 million in aid.
“We’ll probably apply for another $500 million-plus in the next six months,” he said. The company intends to add those subsidies to its own capex, spending $40 for every $60 the government supplies.
In other expansion plans, Goei said Altice USA aims to open at least 50 more retail stores in 2022, after opening 25 in the second part of this year. That’s a big part of its push for its slumping mobile service, which crept up to 181,000 subs in Q3 after much stronger gains previously.
In the near term, the picture still won’t look pretty. Goei said he expects the company’s subscriber count to be down again in Q4, as well as for full-year 2021, as it continues to lose customers to Fios. He insisted, though, that the sub losses to Fios are now subsiding and will turn back into gains sometime next year.
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— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading
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