Time Warner Cable to report 3Q results

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NEW YORK (AP) — Time Warner Cable Inc., the nation’s second-largest cable company, reports its third-quarter earnings before the market opens Thursday, with expectations that it may snap a trend of accelerating losses of TV customers.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Like other cable companies, Time Warner Cable is losing TV customers, mainly to satellite and phone companies. But how fast are they leaving? For the last three years, the trend at Time Warner Cable has been that it has lost more subscribers in every year’s third quarter.

Wunderlich analyst Matthew Harrigan now expects Time Warner Cable to break that trend and report losing 131,000 net TV customers, compared with 155,000 it lost in the same quarter last year.

Cable companies have been compensating for the customer flight with higher prices and by adding broadband customers. However, new Internet service customers are getting harder to find, since most people who can afford it have broadband already. Time Warner Cable has seen a slowdown in the recruitment of new Internet customers for at least four years. But here, too Harrigan expects the company to break the trend, and add 106,000 subscribers, compared to 104,000 last year.

Even with a relatively good quarter behind it, Harrigan sees challenges for Time Warner Cable, as Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. build out faster wireless data networks that could compete with cable broadband. He sees the phone and cable companies are more important threats than “cordcutting,” or the prospect that subscribers might cancel cable TV in favor of watching online video.

WHY IT MATTERS: Time Warner Cable and other cable and Internet providers are competing for customers in a rapidly changing environment that has been shaken by the provision of video over the Internet. It’s also competing against new video services from phone companies.

Time Warner Cable is the first big cable company to report results for the quarter, and it could provide a window into trends at Comcast Corp., which reports next week.

WHAT’S EXPECTED: Analysts polled by FactSet expect earnings of $1.13 per share on revenue of $4.94 billion.

LAST YEAR: In the third quarter of 2010, Time Warner Cable earned $360 million, or $1 per share, on revenue of $4.73 billion.