MSO of the year

Mediacom

In Mediacom’s 20-year history, 2015 is one for the scrapbook. Strongrevenue (up 3.7 percent year-over-year) combined with signifi cant PSUgains of 70,000 units helped drive record free cash flow of $222.4 million.That’s up just over 10 percent from 2014. Even video was lookingup, with losses narrowed to 35,000—its best stat since 2008.

Oh, and as CEO Rocco Commisso is quick to point out—Mediacombecame the 5th largest MSO this year without a single acquisitionthanks to consolidation. Not that a shopping spree would be much ofa problem for the company, seeing as it has paid down $716 millionin debt since going private in 2011. “We have never been at thislevel of leverage in my entire career,” says Commisso, who is keepingmum on whether he has his eye on anything.

“Being able to drive our balance sheet leverage approaching 4x andwith the help of the fi nancial community and smart transactions,we’ve been able to drive our cost of debt among the lowest, if notthe lowest, in the cable business,” adds CFO Mark Stephan. “That’sgreat bragging rights, but in dollars and cents, we can fund capitalspending and re-invest in our business.”

Mediacom is doing just that, announcing in March a $1 billion capitalinvestment plan that includes deployment of one-gig services tovirtually all three million homes and businesses in its footprint. Theinvestment also will see an expansion of the network for businesscustomers. “We’re going to do what we did with the cable business20 years ago. Go out and build a franchise believing we’re going toget it to X-Y-Z penetration rate. I think it’s going to be a pretty solidexpansion of the commercial business services customer base inthe next three years,” Commisso says.

And that $1 billion commitment has helped to re-engage the companywith local franchises. “They’re excited to be partnering with Mediacomagain,” says Tom Larsen, SVP, government and public relations.

While the company has been battered—along with many of itsbrethren—in some consumer satisfaction surveys, the numberspaint a clearer picture. “We are seeing the lowest churn levels ofour customer base and the highest sales levels of our productsgoing into the marketplace. For me, that’s really the true indicator ofhow customers feel,” says operations EVP John Pascarelli. “They’repaying their bills and continuing to keep our service. Our growth isa combination of better management and keeping more customersand adding new business to the network. We’re seeing growth levelswe haven’t seen in a very long time.”

And internally, Mediacom also take a lot of pride, whether it’s assistingemployees during tragedies or staving off layoffs or providingnearly $1 million for scholarships to the children of its employees.“I think everyone who works for us who has been around for morethan a year or two knows we take care of them at the end of theday,” Commisso says. EVP programming and HR Italia CommissoWeinand points to a recent employee survey that had a 40 percentresponse rate. “I take great pride in that as what it says to me isthat people trust us as managers; they feel they can talk to uppermanagement,” she says. In local communities, Mediacom supportscharity initiatives, provides complimentary broadband service,coverage of high school sports and more.

As Mediacom celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, it’s worth noting that the senior management team has been together for mostof that time, with Commisso in the captain’s seat. “I should have fi redthem all a long time ago,” the CEO jokes. He knows he’s a passionateindividual—whether it’s lobbying the FCC, standing up for smalleroperators or defending his company’s status. “There’s no one outthere who has been around for as long as we have with essentially thesame people at the senior level,” Commisso said. “We have never hada down year or quarter of revenues in the last ten years.”

July 2016 Cablefax Mediacom MSO of the Year Article PDF