UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
|☒||ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
| ||For the fiscal year ended||December 31, 2020|
|☐||TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
| ||For the transition period from|| ||to|| |
|Commission File Number||Registrant; State of Incorporation; Address and Telephone Number|| ||IRS Employer Identification No.|
| || || || |
|Altice USA, Inc.|
| || ||Delaware|| || |
| || ||1 Court Square West|| || |
| || ||Long Island City, ||New York||11101|| || |
| ||(516)||803-2300|| |
|Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act|
|Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act|
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
|Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to submit such files).|
|Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer", "accelerated filer", "smaller reporting company", and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one)|
|Large Accelerated Filer||☒||Accelerated filer||☐|
|Non-accelerated filer||☐||Smaller reporting company||☐|
|(Do not check if a smaller reporting company)||Emerging growth company||☐|
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
Aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of Altice USA, Inc. computed by reference to the price at which the common equity was last sold on the New York Stock Exchange as of June 30, 2020:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of each class||Trading Symbol||Name of each exchange on which registered|
|Class A Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share ||ATUS||NYSE|
|Number of shares of common stock outstanding as of February 5, 2021||473,216,854 |
Documents incorporated by reference - Altice USA, Inc. intends to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, not later than 120 days after the close of its fiscal year, a definitive proxy statement or an amendment to this report filed under cover of Form 10-K/A containing the information required to be disclosed under Part III of Form 10-K.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
*Some or all of these items are omitted because Altice USA, Inc. intends to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, not later than 120 days after the close of its fiscal year, a definitive proxy statement or an amendment to this report filed under cover of Form 10-K/A containing the information required to be disclosed under Part III of Form 10-K.
Item 1. Business
Altice USA, Inc. ("Altice USA" or the "Company") was incorporated in Delaware on September 14, 2015. Through June 8, 2018, the Company was majority-owned by Altice Europe N.V. ("Altice Europe"), a public company with limited liability ("naamloze vennootshcap") under Dutch law. On June 8, 2018, Altice Europe distributed substantially all of its equity interest in the Company through a distribution in kind to holders of Altice Europe's common shares A and common shares B (the “Distribution”). The Company is controlled by Patrick Drahi through Next Alt. S.a.r.l. ("Next Alt").
Altice USA is a holding company that does not conduct any business operations of its own. Altice Europe, through a subsidiary, acquired Cequel Corporation ("Cequel" or "Suddenlink") on December 21, 2015 (the "Cequel Acquisition") and Cequel was contributed to Altice USA on June 9, 2016. Altice USA acquired Cablevision Systems Corporation ("Cablevision" or "Optimum") on June 21, 2016 (the "Cablevision Acquisition").
The Company principally provides broadband communications and video services in the United States and markets its services primarily under two brands: Optimum, in the New York metropolitan area, and Suddenlink, principally in markets in the south-central United States. We deliver broadband, video, telephony, and mobile services to more than five million residential and business customers. Our footprint extends across 21 states through a fiber-rich hybrid-fiber coaxial ("HFC") broadband network and a fiber-to-the-home ("FTTH") network with more than 9 million homes passed as of December 31, 2020. Additionally, we offer news programming and content, and advertising services. The Company launched Altice Mobile, our full service mobile offering, to consumers across our footprint in September 2019.
Our FTTH network build, which would enable us to deliver more than 10 Gbps broadband speeds to meet the growing data needs of residential and business customers, is underway. Concurrent to our FTTH network deployment, we also continue to upgrade our existing HFC network through the deployment of digital and data over cable service interface specification ("DOCSIS") 3.0 technology in order to roll out enhanced broadband services to customers. One Gbps broadband services are available in the majority of our footprint and will continue to expand across our service areas throughout 2021. Altice USA’s broadband service provides a connectivity experience to support the most data-intensive activities, including streaming 4K ultra-high-definition ("UHD") and high-definition ("HD") video on multiple devices, online multi-player video game streaming platforms, video chatting, streaming music, high-quality virtual-and augmented reality experiences, and downloading large files.
The following table presents certain financial data and metrics for Altice USA:
|Years ended December 31, |
| ||(in thousands, except percentage data)|
|Customer Relationships (a)||5,024.6 ||4,916.3 ||4,899.5 |
|% growth ||2.2 ||%||0.3 ||%||0.3 ||%|
|Revenue||$||9,894,642 ||$||9,760,859 ||9,566,608 |
|Adjusted EBITDA (b)||$||4,414,814 ||$||4,265,471 ||$||4,163,078 |
|% of Revenue ||44.6 ||%||43.7 ||%||43.5 ||%|
|Net income attributable to Altice USA, Inc. stockholders||$||436,183 ||$||138,936 ||$||18,833 |
(a)Customer metrics do not include Altice Mobile customers.
(b)For additional information regarding Adjusted EBITDA, including a reconciliation of Net Income to Adjusted EBITDA, please refer to "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations."
Our Products and Services
We provide broadband, video and telephony services to both residential and business customers. We also provide enterprise-grade fiber connectivity, bandwidth and managed services to enterprise customers and provide advertising time and services to advertisers. In addition, we offer various news programming through traditional linear and digital platforms. In September 2019, the Company launched Altice Mobile, a full service mobile offering, to consumers across our footprint.
The prices we charge for our services vary based on the number of services and associated service level or tier our customers choose, coupled with any promotions we may offer. Customers who subscribe to a bundle generally receive a discount from the price of buying each of these services separately, as well as the convenience of receiving multiple services from a single provider, all on a single monthly bill. For example, we offer a ‘‘Triple Play’’ package that is a special promotion for new customers or eligible current customers where our broadband, video and telephony services are available at a reduced rate for a specified period when purchased together.
The following table shows our residential customer relationships for broadband, video and telephony services provided to residential customers.
| ||(in thousands)|
Total residential customer relationships:
|4,648.4 ||4,533.3 ||4,518.1 |
|Broadband||4,359.2 ||4,187.3 ||4,115.4 |
|Video||2,961.0 ||3,179.2 ||3,286.1 |
|Telephony||2,214.0 ||2,398.8 ||2,530.1 |
The following table shows our revenues for broadband, video and telephony services provided to residential customers.
|Years Ended December 31,|
|Residential revenue:||(in thousands)|
|Broadband||$||3,689,159 ||$||3,222,605 ||$||2,887,455 |
|Video||3,670,859 ||3,997,873 ||4,156,428 |
|Telephony||468,777 ||598,694 ||652,895 |
We offer a variety of broadband service tiers tailored to meet the different needs of our residential customers. Current offers include download speeds ranging from 20 Mbps to 1 Gbps for our residential customers. Substantially all of our HFC network is digital and data over cable service interface specification DOCSIS 3.0 compatible, with 266 homes per node and a bandwidth capacity of at least 750 MHz throughout. This network allows us to provide our customers with advanced broadband, video and telephony services.
In addition, we have deployed WiFi across our New York metropolitan service area and have started a WiFi deployment program across the rest of our footprint providing for over 2.1 million total WiFi hotspots as of December 31, 2020. The WiFi network allows broadband customers to access Internet connectivity while they are away from their home or office. WiFi is delivered via wireless access points mounted on our broadband network, in certain retail partner locations, certain rail stations, New York City parks and other public venues. Our wireless router product and our Altice One device include a second network that enables all broadband customers to access the WiFi network throughout the neighborhoods we serve. Access to the WiFi network is offered as a free value-added benefit to broadband customers and for a fee to non-customers in certain locations. Our WiFi service also allows our broadband customers to access the WiFi networks of Comcast Corporation ("Comcast"), Charter Communications, Inc. ("Charter") and Cox Communications, Inc. Through these relationships we offer our customers complimentary access to additional hotspots nationwide.
We currently offer a variety of video services, which include delivery of broadcast stations and cable networks, over the top ("OTT") services such as Netflix, YouTube and others, and advanced digital video services, such as video-on-demand ("VOD"), HD channels, digital video recorder ("DVR") and pay-per-view, to our residential markets. Depending on the market and level of service, our video services include, among other programming, local broadcast networks and independent television stations, news, information, sports and entertainment channels, regional sports networks, international channels and premium services such as HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, and The Movie Channel. Our residential customers pay a monthly charge based on the video programming level of service, tier or
package they receive and the type of equipment they select. Customers who subscribe to seasonal sports packages, international channels and premium services may be charged an additional monthly amount. We may also charge additional fees for pay-per-view programming and events, DVR and certain VOD services.
As of December 31, 2020, our residential customers were able to receive between 470 to 592 digital channels depending on their market and level of service. In addition, depending on the service area, we offer between 156 to 188 HD channels which represent the most widely watched programming, including all major broadcast networks, as well as most leading national cable networks, premium channels and regional sports networks. HDTV features high-resolution picture quality, digital sound quality and a wide-screen, theater-like display when using an HDTV set and an HD-capable converter.
We also provide advanced services, such as pay-per-view and VOD, that give residential video customers control over when they watch their favorite programming. Our pay-per-view service allows customers to pay to view single showings of programming on an unedited, commercial-free basis, including feature films, live sporting events, concerts and other special events. Our VOD service provides on-demand access to movies, special events, free prime time content and general interest titles. Subscription-based VOD premium content such as HBO and Showtime is made available to customers who subscribe to one of our premium programming packages. Our customers have the ability to start the programs at whatever time is convenient, as well as pause, rewind and (for most content) fast forward VOD programming. As of December 31, 2020, pay-per-view services were available to over 99% of all our video customers and VOD services were available to over 95% of our video customers, and we offer thousands of HD titles on-demand.
For a monthly fee, we offer DVR services through the use of digital converters, the majority of which are HDTV-capable. Customers can choose either a set-top box DVR with the ability to record, pause and rewind live television or Cloud DVR with remote-storage capability to record 15 shows simultaneously while watching any live or pre-recorded show, and pause and rewind live television. Depending on the service area and market, customers have the option to use a set-top box DVR or a TiVo HD/DVR converter. The TiVo converter delivers multi-room DVR capability using TiVo Mini devices that allow customers to pause and rewind live television, manage recordings from different television locations and play them back throughout the home. In addition, TiVo Stream service, which allows customers to stream live television channels and recorded programming wirelessly throughout their home to Android and iOS devices, and, subject to copyright restrictions, download previously recorded content to these devices so that it can be viewed outside the home, is provided to current TiVo DVR customers.
During the fourth quarter of 2017, we introduced an entertainment and connectivity platform, called Altice One. Altice One is an innovative, integrated platform with a modern user interface that combines a set-top box, Internet wireless router and cable modem in one device. It is offered to customers subscribing to our double and triple-product packages. It is capable of delivering broadband Internet, WiFi, digital television services, OTT services and fixed-line telephony and supports 4K video and Cloud DVR with the capacity to record 15 television programs simultaneously and the ability to rewind live television on the last two channels watched. Additional features include a point-anywhere voice-command remote control and a companion Altice One mobile app that allows viewing of all television content including DVR streaming. Additional televisions are paired with "Minis." Since launch, we have and continue to update Altice One and its companion mobile apps with new features, including the ability to watch Cloud DVR content on the go, access to the YouTube Kids application, the ability to use voice search on YouTube to discover videos, more 4K content for a vivid viewing experience, and more advanced features for customers such as the introduction of our new sports hub, enhanced home screen and additional applications. During the first quarter of 2020 we introduced the Altice One App for Apple TV, providing customers with the ability to watch live, On Demand and DVR content on that platform.
We offer alternative viewing platforms for our video programming through mobile applications. Altice One customers have access to the Altice One mobile application and Optimum customers have access to the Optimum TV application, available for the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Kindle Fire and select Android phones and tablets, and Suddenlink customers have access to the Suddenlink2GO website. Depending on the platform, the Optimum TV application features include the ability to watch live television, stream on-demand titles from various networks and use the device as a remote to control the customer's digital set-top box while inside the home. Suddenlink customers have access to the Suddenlink2GO website, which enables customers to watch movies, shows and clips on a personal computer once authenticated via a customer portal and select television shows and movies on their mobile devices.
Through voice over Internet protocol ("VoIP") telephone service we also offer unlimited local, regional and long-distance calling within the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands for a flat monthly rate, including
popular calling features such as caller ID with name and number, call waiting, three-way calling, enhanced emergency 911 dialing and television caller ID. We also offer additional options designed to meet our customers' needs, including directory assistance, voicemail services and international calling. Discount and promotional pricing are available when our telephony services are combined with our other service offerings.
In September 2019, we commercially launched Altice Mobile, a mobile service providing data, talk and text to consumers in or near our wired service footprint. The service is delivered over a nationwide network with long-term evolution ("LTE") and 5G (where available) coverage through our network partners, including our infrastructure-based mobile virtual network operator ("MVNO") agreement with T-Mobile U.S. Inc. ("T-Mobile") which acquired Sprint Corporation (“Sprint”) in 2020. We have densified the Sprint network coverage in our Optimum footprint with the mounting of 19,000 airstrands on our broadband infrastructure and now benefit from the full combined coverage of the “T-Mobile” and “Sprint” networks. We also have a direct roaming agreement with AT&T Inc. ("AT&T") and some regional partners. We offload mobile traffic using our Optimum Wi-Fi network of hotspots in the New York metropolitan area as well as select customer premises equipment (“CPE”) across our footprint. Our full infrastructure MVNO agreement with T-Mobile is differentiated from other light MVNOs in that it gives us full access control over our own core network, as well as the Home Location Register and subscriber identification module ("SIM") cards. This allows us to fully control seamless data offloading and the handover between the fixed and wireless networks. We also have full product, features and marketing flexibility with our mobile service.
Altice Mobile is sold at Optimum and Suddenlink stores as well as online. Consumers can bring their own devices or buy or finance a variety of phones directly from us, including Apple, Samsung and Motorola devices.
We offer a wide and growing variety of products and services to both large enterprise and small and medium-sized business ("SMB") customers, including broadband, telephony, networking and video services. As of December 31, 2020, we served approximately 376,000 SMB customers across our footprint. We serve enterprise customers primarily through our Lightpath business.
Lightpath provides Ethernet, data transport, IP-based virtual private networks, Internet access, telephony services, including session initiated protocol ("SIP") trunking and VoIP services to the business market in the New York metropolitan area. Our Lightpath bandwidth connectivity service offers speeds up to 100 Gbps. Lightpath also provides managed services to businesses, including hosted telephony services (cloud based SIP-based private branch exchange), managed WiFi, managed desktop and server backup and managed collaboration services including audio and web conferencing. Through Lightpath, we also offer fiber-to-the-tower ("FTTT") services to wireless carriers for cell tower backhaul that enables wireline communications service providers to connect to towers that their own wireline networks do not reach. Lightpath's enterprise customers include companies in health care, financial, education, legal and professional services, and other industries, as well as the public sector and communication providers, incumbent local exchange carriers ("ILEC"), and competitive local exchange carriers ("CLEC"). As of December 31, 2020, Lightpath had over 11,800 locations connected to its fiber network, which currently includes more than 18,800 miles of fiber sheaths (“route miles”) (approximately 9,000 owned route miles and approximately 9,800 route miles pursuant to an indefeasible right of use (“IRU”) from Altice USA.
In December 2020, the Company completed the sale of a 49.99% interest in its Lightpath fiber enterprise business (the "Lightpath Transaction") based on an implied enterprise value of $3.2 billion. The Company retained a 50.01% interest in the Lightpath business and maintained control of Cablevision Lightpath LLC, the entity holding the interest in the Lightpath business. Accordingly, the Company continues to consolidate the operating results of the Lightpath business.
In our Suddenlink footprint, for enterprise and larger commercial customers, Suddenlink offers high capacity data services, including wide area networking and dedicated data access and advanced services such as wireless mesh networks. Suddenlink also offers enterprise class telephone services which include traditional multi-line phone service over DOCSIS and trunking solutions via SIP for our Primary Rate Interface ("PRI") and SIP trunking applications. Similar to Lightpath, Suddenlink also offers FTTT services. These Suddenlink services are offered on a standalone basis or in bundles that are developed specifically for our commercial customers.
We provide broadband, video and telephony services to SMB customers. In addition to these services, we also offer managed services, including business e-mail, hosted private branch exchange, web space storage and network security monitoring for SMB customers. Telephony services include Optimum Voice for Business, Suddenlink Business Class Phones, Business Hosted Voice and Business Trunking (SIP and PRI). Optional telephony add-on services include international calling and toll free numbers.
News and Advertising
News 12 Networks
Our News 12 Networks consists of seven 24-hour local news channels in the New York metropolitan area—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Connecticut, Hudson Valley, Long Island, New Jersey and Westchester—providing each with complete access to hyper-local breaking news, traffic, weather, sports, and more.
Since launching in 1986, News 12 Networks has been widely recognized by the news industry with numerous prestigious honors and awards, including Emmy Awards, plus multiple Edward R. Murrow Awards, NY Press Club Awards, and more. We derive revenue from our News 12 Networks for the sale of advertising and affiliation fees paid by cable operators.
Cheddar consists of the Cheddar Business News network covering business, politics, headline news, popular culture, and innovative products, technologies, and services. Cheddar Business News broadcasts live a total of 11 hours a day across traditional linear television delivery systems and OTT platforms.
Cheddar was acquired in June 2019, and we consolidated Cheddar's results of operations and its assets and liabilities as of June 1, 2019.
i24NEWS consists of three 24-hour global channels that provide global breaking news and world stories with a focus on the Middle East and Israel. i24NEWS launched in English, French, and Arabic in July 2013.
a4 Advertising is the advanced advertising and data solutions subsidiary of Altice USA. It provides audience-based, IP-authenticated cross-screen advertising solutions to local, regional and national businesses and advertising clients. a4 enables advertisers to reach U.S. households across their devices through cable networks, on-demand and addressable inventory.
New York Interconnect
In many markets, we have entered into agreements commonly referred to as “Interconnects” with other cable operators to jointly sell local advertising. This simplifies our clients' purchase of local advertising and expands their geographic reach. In some markets, we represent the advertising sales efforts of other cable operators; in other markets, alternative cable operators represent us. For example, NY Interconnect, LLC ("NYI") is a joint venture that was launched in the second quarter 2018 between Altice USA, Charter and Comcast. NYI provides a wide range of television and digital advertising opportunities for brands looking to reach over 7.5 million households and 20+ million people across the New York designated market area ("DMA").
As of December 31, 2020, our systems operated in more than 1,300 communities pursuant to franchises, permits and similar authorizations issued by state and local governmental authorities. Franchise agreements typically require the payment of franchise fees and contain regulatory provisions addressing, among other things, service quality, cable service to schools and other public institutions, insurance and indemnity. Franchise authorities generally charge a franchise fee of not more than 5% of certain of our cable service revenues that are derived from the operation of the system within such locality. We generally pass the franchise fee on to our customers.
Franchise agreements are usually for a term of 5 to 15 years from the date of grant, however, approximately 460 of Altice USA’s communities are located in states (Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas) where by law franchise agreements do not have an expiration date. Franchise agreements are usually terminable only if the cable operator fails to comply with material provisions and then only after the franchising authority complies
with substantive and procedural protections afforded by the franchise agreement and federal and state law. Prior to the scheduled expiration of most franchises, we generally initiate renewal proceedings with the granting authorities. This process usually takes less than three years but can take a longer period of time. The Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the "Communications Act"), which is the primary federal statute regulating interstate communications, provides for an orderly franchise renewal process in which granting authorities may not unreasonably withhold renewals. See "Regulation—Cable Television—Franchising." In connection with the franchise renewal process, many governmental authorities require the cable operator to make certain commitments, such as building out certain franchise areas, meeting customer service requirements and supporting and carrying public access channels.
Historically, we have been able to renew our franchises without incurring significant costs, although any particular franchise may not be renewed on commercially favorable terms or otherwise. We expect to renew or continue to operate under all or substantially all of these franchises. For more information regarding risks related to our franchises, see "Risk Factors—Risk Factors Relating to Regulatory and Legislative Matters—Our cable system franchises are subject to non-renewal or termination. The failure to renew a franchise in one or more key markets could adversely affect our business." Proposals to streamline cable franchising recently have been adopted at both the federal and state levels. For more information, see "Regulation—Cable Television—Franchising."
We design our channel line-ups for each system according to demographics, programming contract requirements, market research, viewership, local programming preferences, channel capacity, competition, price sensitivity and local regulation. We believe offering a wide variety of programming influences a customer's decision to subscribe to and retain our video services. We obtain programming, including basic, expanded basic, digital, HD, 4K UHD, VOD and broadband content, from a number of suppliers, including broadcast and cable networks.
We generally carry cable networks pursuant to written programming contracts, which continue for a fixed period of time, usually from three to five years, and are subject to negotiated renewal. Cable network programming is usually made available to us for a license fee, which is generally paid based on the number of customers who subscribe to the level of service that provides such programming. Such license fees may include "volume" discounts available for higher numbers of customers, as well as discounts for channel placement or service penetration. For home shopping channels, we receive a percentage of the revenue attributable to our customers' purchases, as well as, in some instances, incentives for channel placement.
We typically seek flexible distribution terms that would permit services to be made available in a variety of retail packages and on a variety of platforms and devices in order to maximize consumer choice. Suppliers typically insist that their most popular and attractive services be distributed to a minimum number or percentage of customers, which limits our ability to provide consumers full purchasing flexibility. Suppliers also typically seek to control or limit the terms on which we are able to make their services available on various platforms and devices yet this has become more flexible each year.
Our cable programming costs for broadcast stations and cable networks have increased in excess of customary inflationary and cost-of-living type increases. We expect programming costs to continue to increase due to a variety of factors including annual increases imposed by stations and programmers and additional programming being provided to customers, including HD, 4K UHD, digital and VOD programming. In particular, broadcast and sports programming costs have increased significantly over the past several years. In addition, contracts to purchase sports programming sometimes provide for optional additional programming to be available on a surcharge basis during the term of the contract. These increases have coincided with a significant increase in the quality of the programming, from high production value original cable series to enhanced camera and statistical data technology in sports broadcasts, and more flexible rights to make the content available on various platforms and devices.
We have programming contracts that have expired and others that will expire in the near term. We will seek to renegotiate the terms of these agreements, but there can be no assurance that these agreements will be renewed on favorable or comparable terms. To the extent that we are unable to reach agreement with certain programmers on terms that we believe are reasonable, we have been, and may in the future be, forced to remove such programming channels from our line-up, which may result in a loss of customers. For more information, see "Risk Factors—Risk Factors Relating to Our Business—Programming and retransmission costs are increasing and we may not have the ability to pass these increases on to our customers. Disputes with programmers and the inability to retain or obtain popular programming can adversely affect our relationship with customers and lead to customer losses, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations."
Sales and Marketing
Sales are managed centrally and multiple sales channels allow us to reach each current and potential customers in a variety of ways, including in-bound customer care centers, outbound telemarketing, stores, field technician sales and door-to-door sales. E-commerce is also managed centrally on behalf of the organization and is a growing part of our business and is our fastest growing sales channel. We also use mass media, including broadcast television, digital media, radio, newspaper and outdoor advertising, to attract customers and direct them to our in-bound customer care centers or website. Our sales and service employees use a variety of sales tools as they work to match customers' needs with our best-in-class products, with a focus on building and enhancing customer relationships.
Because of our local presence and market knowledge, we invest heavily in targeted marketing. Our strategic focus is on building new customer relationships and bundling broadband, video and services that deliver innovative solutions to customer pain points. Much of our advertising is developed centrally and customized for our regions. Among other factors, we monitor customer perceptions, marketing tactic impact and competition, to increase our responsiveness and the effectiveness of our efforts. Our footprint has several large college markets where we market specialized products and services to students for multiple dwelling units ("MDUs"), such as dormitories and apartment complexes.
We have separate dedicated sales teams for our SMB and enterprise offerings and dedicated service teams to support SMB and enterprise clients.
We believe customer service is a cornerstone of our business. Our strategy is to demonstrate that we are reliable, technical experts, that we are simple to interact with and that, in the event of a service failure, we are responsive and courteous as we work to resolve the issue. Accordingly, we make a concerted effort to continually improve each customer's experience and have made significant investments in our people, processes and technology to enhance our customers' experience and to reduce the need for customers to contact us.
The insights from operational customer service metrics help us focus our product and network improvement efforts. Listening to and acting upon feedback is a major pillar in our customer experience program and as such we review feedback as part of our daily operations.
We provide technical service to our customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we have systems that allow our customer care centers to be accessed and managed remotely in the event that systems functionality is temporarily lost, which provides our customers access to customer service with limited disruption.
We are prioritizing the growth and development of new self-service and digital care options while simultaneously simplifying and improving our agent toolset to better serve our customer needs. We strive to offer a premium customer care experience through traditional and digital methods.
We also utilize our customer portal to enable our customers to manage their bill online, obtain service information and perform troubleshooting procedures. Our customers may also obtain support through our online bot, chat and social media websites, including Twitter and Facebook.
Our cable systems are generally designed with an HFC architecture that has proven to be highly flexible in meeting the increasing needs of our customers. We deliver our signals via laser-fed fiber optic cable from control centers known as headends and hubs to individual nodes. Each node is connected to the individual homes served by us. A primary benefit of this design is that it pushes fiber optics closer to our customers' homes, which allows us to subdivide our systems into smaller service groups and make capital investments only in service groups experiencing higher than average service growth.
As of December 31, 2020, approximately 95% of our basic video customers were served by systems with a capacity of at least 750 MHz and 266 homes per node. We have upgraded our networks, both through the deployment of our fiber to the home network and through new DOCSIS technologies, and we are delivering speeds of up to 1 Gbps in many areas of our footprint. More than 99% of our residential broadband Internet customers are connected to our national backbone with a presence in major carrier access points in New York, Dallas, Chicago, San Jose, Washington D.C. and Phoenix. This presence allows us to avoid significant Internet transit costs by establishing peering relationships with major Internet service and content providers enabling direct connectivity with them at these access points.
We also have a networking caching architecture that places highly viewed Internet traffic from the largest Internet-based content providers at the edge of the network closest to the customer to reduce bandwidth requirements across our national backbone, thus reducing operating expense. This collective network architecture also provides us with the capability to manage traffic across several Internet access points, thus helping to ensure Internet access redundancy and quality of service for our customers. Additionally, our national backbone connects most of our systems, which allows for an efficient and economical deployment of services from our centralized platforms that include telephone, VOD, network DVR, common video content, broadband Internet, hosted business solutions, provisioning, e-mail and other related services.
Our FTTH network build, which would enable us to deliver more than 10 Gbps broadband speeds across a majority of our footprint, is underway. We believe this FTTH network will be more resilient with reduced maintenance requirements, fewer service outages and lower power usage, which we expect will drive further structural cost efficiencies.
We have also focused on system reliability and disaster recovery as part of our national backbone and primary system strategy. For example, to help ensure a high level of reliability of our services, we implemented redundant power capability, as well as fiber route and carrier diversity in our networks serving most of our customers. With respect to disaster recovery, we invested in our telephone platform architecture for geo-redundancy to minimize downtime in the event of a disaster to any single facility. Additionally, we are working to implement a geo-redundant disaster recovery environment for our network operations center supporting both residential and business customers.
In addition, we have expanded and refined our bandwidth utilization in capacity constrained systems in order to meet demand for new and improved advanced services. A key component to reclaim bandwidth was the digital delivery of video channels that were previously distributed in analog through the launch of digital simulcast, which duplicates analog channels as digital channels. Additionally, the deployment of lower-cost digital customer premises equipment, such as HD digital transport adapters, enabled the use of more efficient digital channels instead of analog channels, thus allowing the reclamation of expanded basic analog bandwidth in the targeted systems. This reclaimed analog bandwidth could then be repurposed for other advanced services such as additional HDTV services and faster Internet access speeds.
To support our mobile business, we built a nationwide mobile core network with five main interconnection points (Texas, California, Illinois, and two in New York), as well as the necessary interconnection points for our network partners T-Mobile and AT&T.
Our IT systems consist of billing, customer relationship management, business and operational support and sales force management systems. We continue to update and simplify our IT infrastructure through further investments, focusing on cost efficiencies, improved system reliability, functionality and scalability and enhancing the ability of our IT infrastructure to meet our ongoing business objectives. Additionally, through investment in our IT platforms and focus on process improvement, we have simplified and harmonized our service offering bundles and improved our technical service delivery and customer service capabilities. We contract with managed service providers to deliver certain core Business Support Systems and Operations Support Systems. These services are integrated into our overall IT ecosystems to ensure an efficient operation. Backup services are provided through alternate systems and infrastructure.
Customer Premise and Network Equipment
We purchase set-top boxes and other customer premise equipment from a limited number of vendors because our cable systems use one or two proprietary technology architectures. We buy HD, HD/DVRs and VOD equipment, routers, including the components of our home communications hub, and other network equipment from a limited number of suppliers, including Altice Labs, Altice Europe's technology, services and innovation center. See "Risk Factors—Risk Factors Relating to Our Business—We rely on network and information systems for our operations and a disruption or failure of, or defects in, those systems may disrupt our operations, damage our reputation with customers and adversely affect our results of operations."
Broadband and Telephone Connectivity
We deliver broadband and telephony services through our HFC and fiber network. We use circuits that are either owned by us or rented from third parties to connect to the Internet and the public switched telephone network. We
pay fees for rented circuits based on the amount of capacity available to it and pay for Internet connectivity based on the amount of IP-based traffic received from and sent over the other carrier's network.
Mobile Voice and Data Equipment
We purchase for resale mobile handsets from a number of original equipment manufacturers including Apple, Samsung, and Motorola. Customers of our mobile service are able to purchase these handsets with upfront payments or financed without interest over a 36-month period.
We rely on our patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets, as well as licenses and other agreements with our vendors and other parties, to use our technologies, conduct our operations and sell our products and services. We also rely on our access to the proprietary technology of Altice Europe, including through Altice Labs, and licenses to the name “Altice” and derivatives from Next Alt. However, no single patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret or content license is material to our business. We believe we own or have the right to use all of the intellectual property that is necessary for the operation of our business as we currently conduct it.
We operate in a highly competitive, consumer-driven industry and we compete against a variety of broadband, video, mobile and fixed-line telephony providers and delivery systems, including broadband communications companies, wireless data and telephony providers, satellite delivered video signals, Internet-delivered video content and broadcast television signals available to residential and business customers in our service areas. We believe our leading market position in our footprint, technologically advanced network infrastructure, including our FTTH build-out, Altice One, our entertainment and connectivity platform, our new mobile service, and our focus on enhancing the customer experience favorably position us to compete in our industry. See also "Risk Factors—Risk Factors Relating to Our Business—We operate in a highly competitive business environment which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity."
Broadband Services Competition
Our broadband services face competition from broadband communications companies' digital subscriber line ("DSL"), FTTH/Fiber to the Premises ("FTTP") and wireless broadband offerings, as well as from a variety of companies that offer other forms of online services, including satellite-based broadband services. AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc.'s ("Verizon") Fios are our primary FTTH competitors. Current and future fixed and wireless Internet services, such as 4G, LTE and 5G (and variants) wireless broadband services and WiFi networks, and devices such as wireless data cards, tablets and smartphones, and mobile wireless routers that connect to such devices, may also compete with our broadband services both for in premises broadband service and mobile broadband. All major wireless carriers offer unlimited data plans, which could, in some cases, become a substitute for the fixed broadband services we provide. The Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") is likely to continue to make additional radio spectrum available for these wireless Internet access services, which in time could expand the quality and reach of these services.
Video Services Competition
We face intense competition from broadband communications companies with fiber-based networks, primarily Verizon, which has constructed a FTTH network plant that passes a significant number of households in our Optimum service area, and AT&T, which has constructed an FTTP/Fiber to the Node ("FTTN") infrastructure in parts of our Suddenlink service area. We estimate that Verizon is currently able to sell a fiber-based video service, as well as broadband and VoIP services, to at least half of the households in our Optimum service area. Frontier Communications Corporation ("Frontier") offers video service in competition with us in most of our Connecticut service area.
We also compete with direct broadcast satellite ("DBS") providers, such as DirecTV (a subsidiary of AT&T) and DISH Network Corporation ("DISH"). DirecTV and DISH offer one-way satellite-delivered pre-packaged programming services that are received by relatively small and inexpensive receiving dishes. DirecTV has exclusive arrangements with the National Football League that give it access to programming that we cannot offer. In 2018 AT&T acquired Time Warner Inc. ("Time Warner"), which owns a number of cable networks, including TBS, CNN and HBO, as well as Warner Bros. Entertainment, which produces television, film and home-video content. AT&T's and DirecTV's access to Time Warner programming and studio assets provides AT&T and DirecTV the ability to offer competitive promotional packages. We believe cable-delivered services, which include the ability to bundle
additional services such as broadband, offer a competitive advantage to DBS service because cable headends can provide two-way communication to deliver a large volume of programming which customers can access and control independently.
Our video services also face competition from a number of other sources, including companies that deliver movies, television shows and other video programming, including extensive on demand, live content, serials, exclusive and original content, over broadband Internet connections to televisions, computers, tablets and mobile devices, such as Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV+, YouTube TV, Amazon Prime, Sling TV, AT&T TV, Locast and others. In addition, our programming partners continue to launch direct to consumer streaming products, delivering content to consumers that was formerly only available via video, such as HBO Max, Discovery+ and Disney+.
Telephony Services Competition
Our telephony service competes with wireline, wireless and VoIP phone service providers, such as Vonage, Skype, GoogleTalk, Facetime, WhatsApp and magicJack, as well as companies that sell phone cards at a cost per minute for both national and international service. We also compete with other forms of communication, such as text messaging on cellular phones, instant messaging, social networking services, video conferencing and email. The increased number of technologies capable of carrying telephony services and the number of alternative communication options available to customers have intensified the competitive environment in which we operate our telephony services.
Mobile Wireless Competition
Our mobile wireless service, launched in September 2019, faces competition from a number of national incumbent network-based mobile service providers (like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile US, Inc. ("T-Mobile")) and smaller regional service providers, as well as a number of reseller or MVNO providers (such as Tracfone, Boost Mobile and Cricket Wireless, among others). We believe that our approach to the mobile wireless service offering, including the construction and operation of our own "mobile core" and the ability to bundle and promote the product to our existing customer base, gives us advantages over pure MVNO resellers, and differentiates us from incumbent network-based operators. Improvements by incumbent and reseller mobile service providers on price, features, speeds, and service enhancements will continue to impact the competitiveness and attractiveness of our mobile service, and we will need to continue to invest in our services, product and marketing to answer that competition. Our mobile wireless strategy depends on the availability of wholesale access to radio access networks ("RAN") from one or more network-based providers with whom we are likely to compete. Our mobile service is vulnerable to constraints on the availability of wholesale access or increases in price from the incumbents. Consolidation among wholesale RAN access providers could impair our ability to sustain our mobile service. In April 2020, Sprint and T-Mobile merged, subject to certain conditions imposed by the United States Department of Justice and the FCC. While the conditions attached to the combination may benefit our mobile service in the medium term, the reduction of competition among mobile wireless network-based providers likely will negatively impact the price and availability of wholesale RAN access to the Company generally, certain of the conditions imposed upon the merger parties by the U.S. Justice Department and the FCC have the potential to ameliorate those effects and to enhance the coverage, quality and cost structure for our mobile services while those conditions are in effect.
Business Services Competition
We operate in highly competitive business telecommunications market and compete primarily with local incumbent telephone companies, especially AT&T, CenturyLink, Inc. ("Centurylink"), Frontier and Verizon, as well as with a variety of other national and regional business services competitors.
Advertising Sales Competition
We provide advertising and advanced targeted digital advertising services on television and digital platforms, both directly and indirectly, within and outside our television service area. We face intense competition for advertising revenue across many different platforms and from a wide range of local and national competitors. Advertising competition has increased and will likely continue to increase as new formats seek to attract the same advertisers. We compete for advertising revenue against, among others, local broadcast stations, national cable and broadcast networks, radio stations, print media, social network platforms (such as Facebook and Instagram), and online advertising companies (such as Google) and content providers (such as Disney).
General Company Regulation
Our cable, related and other services are subject to a variety of federal, state and local law and regulations, as well as, in instances where we operate outside of the U.S., the laws and regulations of the countries and regions where we operate. The Communications Act, and the rules, regulations and policies of the FCC, as well as other federal, state and other laws governing cable television, communications, consumer protection, privacy and related matters, affect significant aspects of the operations of our cable, related and other services.
The following paragraphs describe the existing legal and regulatory requirements we believe are most significant to our operations today. Our business can be dramatically impacted by changes to the existing regulatory framework, whether triggered by legislative, administrative or judicial rulings.
Franchising. The Communications Act requires cable operators to obtain a non-exclusive franchise from state or local franchising authorities to provide cable service. Although the terms of franchise agreements differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, they typically require payment of franchise fees and contain regulatory provisions addressing, among other things, use of the right of way, service quality, cable service to schools and other public institutions, insurance, indemnity and sales of assets or changes in ownership. State and local franchising authority, however, must be exercised consistent with the Communications Act, which sets limits on franchising authorities' powers, including limiting franchise fees to no more than 5% of gross revenues from the provision of cable service, prohibiting franchising authorities from requiring us to carry specific programming services, and protecting the renewal expectation of franchisees by limiting the factors a franchising authority may consider and requiring a due process hearing before denying renewal. Even when franchises are renewed, however, the franchise authority may, except where prohibited by applicable law, seek to impose new and more onerous requirements as a condition of renewal. Similarly, if a franchising authority's consent is required for the purchase or sale of a cable system, the franchising authority may attempt to impose more burdensome requirements as a condition for providing its consent. Cable franchises generally are granted for fixed terms and, in many cases, include monetary penalties for noncompliance. They may also be terminable if the franchisee fails to comply with material provisions.
In recent years, the traditional local cable franchising regime has undergone significant change as a result of federal and state action. Several states have reduced or eliminated the role of local or municipal government in franchising in favor of state- or system-wide franchises, and the trend has been toward consolidation of franchising authority at the state level, in part to accommodate the interests of new broadband and cable entrants over the last decade. At the same time, the FCC has adopted rules that streamline entry for new competitors (such as those affiliated with broadband communications companies) and reduce certain franchising burdens for these new entrants. In 2019, the FCC also extended to existing cable providers relief from certain fees and other regulatory requirements imposed by franchising authorities, including subjecting certain fees for access to the right-of-way and certain in-kind payments obligations to the statutory cap on franchise fees, as well as preempting franchising authorities from regulating cable operators’ non-cable services. The FCC’s order is currently being challenged on appeal.
Pricing and Packaging. The Communications Act and the FCC's rules limit the scope of price regulation for cable television services. Among other limitations, franchising authorities may regulate rates for only "basic" cable service. In 2015, the FCC adopted a rule establishing a presumption against rate regulation absent an affirmative showing by the franchising authority that there is an absence of effective competition. Based on the 2015 FCC rule, none of our video customers are currently subject to basic rate regulation.
There have been frequent calls to impose further rate regulation on the cable industry. It is possible that Congress or the FCC may adopt new constraints on the retail pricing or packaging of cable programming. As we attempt to respond to a changing marketplace with competitive marketing and pricing practices, we may face regulations that impede our ability to compete. In addition, a number of state and local regulatory authorities have imposed or seek to impose price- or price-related regulation that we believe is inconsistent with FCC direction, and these efforts if successful, will diminish the benefits of deregulation and hamper our ability to compete with our largely unregulated competitors. We brought a challenge in federal court against one such attempt to regulate our pricing by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, and in January 2020 we won a preliminary injunction in federal court in the District of New Jersey enjoining that agency from enforcing its regulation.
Must-Carry/Retransmission Consent. Cable operators are required to carry, without compensation, programming transmitted by most local commercial and noncommercial broadcast television stations that elect "must carry" status.
Alternatively, local commercial broadcast television stations may elect "retransmission consent," giving up their must-carry right and instead negotiating with cable systems the terms on which the cable systems may carry the station's programming content. Cable systems generally may not carry a broadcast station that has elected retransmission consent without the station's consent. The terms of retransmission consent agreements frequently include the payment of compensation to the station.
Broadcast stations must elect either "must carry" or retransmission consent every three years. A substantial number of local broadcast stations currently carried by our cable systems have elected to negotiate for retransmission consent. In the most recent retransmission consent negotiations, popular television stations have demanded substantial compensation increases, thereby increasing our operating costs.
Ownership Limitations. Federal regulation of the communications field traditionally included a host of ownership restrictions, which limited the size of certain media entities and restricted their ability to enter into competing enterprises. Through a series of legislative, regulatory, and judicial actions, most of these restrictions have been either eliminated or substantially relaxed. In 2017, the FCC relaxed some broadcast media ownership rules, and the broadcast industry subsequently experienced consolidation. The FCC’s order relaxing these rules was vacated by a federal appeals court, but the appeals court decision is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Depending on the outcome of that case or the FCC’s current quadrennial review of ownership rules, the broadcast industry could consolidate further, which could impact the fees we pay broadcasters to license their signals.
Set-Top Boxes. The Communications Act includes a provision that requires the FCC to take certain steps to support the development of a retail market for "navigation devices," such as cable set-top boxes. Several years ago, the FCC began a proceeding to consider requiring cable operators to accommodate third-party navigation devices, which have imposed substantial development and operating requirements on the industry. Though there is currently no active effort to advance these proposals, the FCC may in the future consider implementing other measures to promote the competitive availability of retail set-top boxes or third-party navigation options that could impact our customers' experience, our ability to capture user interactions to refine and enhance our services, and our ability to provide a consistent customer support environment.
PEG and Leased Access. Franchising authorities may require that we support the delivery and support for public, educational, or governmental ("PEG") channels on our cable systems. In addition to providing PEG channels, we must make a limited number of commercial leased access channels available to third parties (including parties with potentially competitive video services) at regulated rates. The FCC adopted revised rules several years ago mandating a significant reduction in the rates that operators can charge commercial leased access users. These rules were stayed, however, by a federal court, pending a cable industry appeal. This matter currently remains pending, and the revised rules are not yet in effect. Although commercial leased access activity historically has been relatively limited, increased activity in this area could further burden the channel capacity of our cable systems.
Pole Attachments. The Company makes extensive use of utility poles and conduits owned by other utilities to attach and install the facilities that are integral to our network and services. The Communications Act requires most utilities to provide cable systems with access to poles and conduits to attach such facilities at regulated rates. The FCC (or a state, if it chooses to regulate) regulates utility company rates for the rental of pole and conduit space used by companies, including operators like us, to provide cable, telecommunications services, and Internet access services. Many states in which we operate have elected to set their own pole attachment rules. Adverse changes to the pole attachment rate structure, rates, classifications, and access could significantly increase our annual pole attachment costs.
Program Access. The program access rules generally prohibit a cable operator from improperly influencing an affiliated satellite-delivered cable programming service to discriminate unfairly against an unaffiliated distributor where the purpose or effect of such influence is to significantly hinder or prevent the competitor from providing satellite-delivered cable programming. FCC rules also allow a competing distributor to bring a complaint against a cable-affiliated terrestrially-delivered programmer or its affiliated cable operator for alleged violations of this rule, and seek reformed terms of carriage as a remedy.
Program Carriage. The FCC's program carriage rules prohibit us from requiring that an unaffiliated programmer grant us a financial interest or exclusive carriage rights as a condition of its carriage on our cable systems and prohibit us from unfairly discriminating against unaffiliated programmers in the terms and conditions of carriage on the basis of their nonaffiliation.
Exclusive Access to Multitenant Buildings. The FCC has prohibited cable operators from entering into or enforcing exclusive agreements with owners of multitenant buildings under which the operator is the only multichannel video
programming distributor ("MVPD") with access to the building. The FCC is currently considering whether to adopt additional rules regarding access to multitenant environments by providers of broadband service.
CALM Act. The FCC's rules require us to ensure that all commercials carried on our cable service comply with specified volume standards.
Privacy and Data Security. In the course of providing our services, we collect certain information about our customers and their use of our services. We also collect certain information regarding potential customers and other individuals. Our collection, use, disclosure and other handling of information is subject to a variety of federal and state privacy requirements, including those imposed specifically on cable operators and telecommunications service providers by the Communications Act. We are also subject to data security obligations, as well as requirements to provide notice to individuals and governmental entities in the event of certain data security breaches, and such breaches, depending on their scope and consequences, may lead to litigation and enforcement actions with the potential of substantial monetary forfeitures or to adversely affect our brand.
As cable operators provide interactive and other advanced services, additional privacy and data security requirements may arise through legislation, regulation or judicial decisions. For example, the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 has been extended to cover online interactive services through which customers can buy or rent movies. In addition, Congress, the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"), and other lawmakers and regulators are all considering whether to adopt additional measures that could impact the collection, use, and disclosure of customer information in connection with the delivery of advertising and other services to consumers customized to their interests. See "Privacy Regulations" below.
Federal Copyright Regulation. We are required to pay copyright royalty fees on a semi-annual basis to receive a statutory compulsory license to carry broadcast television content. These fees are subject to periodic audit by the content owners. The amount of a cable operator's royalty fee payments are determined by a statutory formula that takes into account various factors, including the amount of "gross receipts" received from customers for "basic" service, the number of "distant" broadcast signals carried and the characteristics of those distant signals (e.g., network, independent or noncommercial). Certain elements of the royalty formula are subject to adjustment from time to time, which can lead to increases in the amount of our semi-annual royalty payments. The U.S. Copyright Office, which administers the collection of royalty fees, has made recommendations to Congress for changes in or elimination of the statutory compulsory licenses for cable television carriage of broadcast signals and the U.S. Government Accountability Office is conducting a statutorily-mandated inquiry into whether the cable compulsory license should be phased out. Changes to copyright regulations could adversely affect the ability of our cable systems to obtain such programming and could increase the cost of such programming. Similarly, we must obtain music rights for locally originated programming and advertising from the major music performing rights organizations. These licensing fees have been the source of litigation in the past, and we cannot predict with certainty whether license fee disputes may arise in the future.
Access for Persons with Disabilities. The FCC's rules require us to ensure that persons with disabilities can more fully access the programming we carry. We are required to provide closed captions and pass through video description to customers on some networks we carry, and to provide an easy means of activating closed captioning and to ensure the audio accessibility of emergency information and on-screen text menus and guides provided by our navigation devices.
Other Regulation. We are subject to various other regulations, including those related to political broadcasting; home wiring; the blackout of certain network and syndicated programming; prohibitions on transmitting obscene programming; limitations on advertising in children's programming; and standards for emergency alerts, as well as telemarketing and general consumer protection laws and equal employment opportunity obligations. For example, the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 imposes obligations on cable and fixed broadband providers, including required disclosures at the point of sale and in electronic billing and prohibitions on certain equipment charges. The FCC also imposes various technical standards on our operations. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the FCC and the states are examining whether new requirements are necessary to improve the resiliency of communications networks, potentially including cable networks. Further, following certain extreme weather events in 2020, several states have undertaken examinations of storm resiliency, recovery, and customer impacts, which investigations could lead to additional regulation of the industry. Each of these regulations restricts (or could restrict) our business practices to varying degrees. The FCC can aggressively enforce compliance with its regulations and consumer protection policies, including through the imposition of substantial monetary sanctions. It is possible that Congress or the FCC will expand or modify its regulations of cable systems in the future, and we cannot predict at this time how that might impact our business.
Regulatory Classification. Broadband Internet access services were traditionally classified by the FCC as "information services" for regulatory purposes, a type of service that is subject to a lesser degree of regulation than "telecommunications services." In 2015, the FCC reversed this determination and classified broadband Internet access services as "telecommunications services." This reclassification had subjected our broadband Internet access service to greater regulation, although the FCC did not apply all telecommunications service obligations to broadband Internet access service. The 2015 Order (as defined below) could have had a material adverse impact on our business. In December 2017, the FCC adopted an order that in large part reversed again the 2015 Order and reestablished the "information service" classification for broadband Internet access service. The 2017 Order (as defined below) was affirmed in part on appeal in October 2019 insofar as it classified broadband Internet access services as information services subject to lesser federal regulation. However, the 2017 Order was also vacated in part on appeal insofar as it preempted states from subjecting broadband Internet access services to any requirements more stringent than the federal requirements. As a result, the precise extent to which state rules may impose such requirements on broadband Internet access service providers is not fully settled. Additionally, the FCC is expected to revisit the appropriate regulatory classification of broadband in 2021.
Net Neutrality. Congress and some states are considering legislation that may codify “net neutrality” rules, which could include prohibitions on blocking, throttling and prioritizing Internet traffic. A number of states, including California and New York, have adopted legislation and/or executive orders that apply “net neutrality” rules to Internet service providers ("ISPs"). The California legislation is currently being challenged in court.
Access for Persons with Disabilities. The FCC's rules require us to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to "advanced communications services", such as electronic messaging and interoperable video conferencing. They also require that certain video programming delivered via Internet Protocol include closed captioning and require entities distributing such programming to end users to pass through such captions and identify programming that should be captioned.
Other Regulation. Providers of broadband Internet access services must comply with the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act ("CALEA"), which requires providers to make their services and facilities accessible for law enforcement intercept requests. Various other federal and state laws apply to providers of services that are accessible through broadband Internet access service, including copyright laws, telemarketing laws, prohibitions on obscenity, a ban on unsolicited commercial e-mail, and privacy and data security laws. Online content we provide is also subject to some of these laws.
Other forms of regulation of broadband Internet access service currently being considered by the FCC, Congress or state legislatures include consumer protection requirements, billing and notifications requirements, cybersecurity requirements, consumer service standards, requirements to contribute to universal service programs and requirements to protect personally identifiable customer data from theft. Pending and future legislation in this area could adversely affect our operations as an ISP and our relationship with our Internet customers.
Additionally, from time to time the FCC and Congress have considered whether to subject broadband Internet access services to the federal Universal Service Fund ("USF") contribution requirements. Any contribution requirements adopted for Internet access services would impose significant new costs on our broadband Internet service. At the same time, the FCC is changing the manner in which Universal Service funds are distributed. By focusing on broadband and wireless deployment, rather than traditional telephone service, the changes could assist some of our competitors in more effectively competing with our service offerings.
We provide telephony services using VoIP technology ("interconnected VoIP") and traditional switched telephony via our CLEC subsidiaries.
The FCC has adopted several regulations for interconnected VoIP services, as have several states, especially as it relates to core customer and safety issues such as E911, local number portability, disability access, outage reporting, universal service contributions, and regulatory reporting requirements. The FCC has not, however, formally classified interconnected VoIP services as either information services or telecommunications services. In this vacuum, some states have asserted more expansive rights to regulate interconnected VoIP services, while others have adopted laws that bar the state commission from regulating VoIP service.
Universal Service. Interconnected VoIP services must contribute to the USF used to subsidize communication services provided to low-income households, to customers in rural and high cost areas, and to schools, libraries, and
rural health care providers. The amount of universal service contribution required of interconnected VoIP service providers is based on a percentage of revenues earned from interstate and international services provided to end users. We allocate our end user revenues and remit payments to the universal service fund in accordance with FCC rules. The FCC has ruled that states may impose state universal service fees on interconnected VoIP providers.
Local Number Portability. The FCC requires interconnected VoIP service providers and their "numbering partners" to ensure that their customers have the ability to port their telephone numbers when changing providers. We also contribute to federal funds to meet the shared costs of local number portability and the costs of North American Numbering Plan Administration.
Other Regulation. Interconnected VoIP service providers are required to provide enhanced 911 emergency services to their customers; protect customer proprietary network information from unauthorized disclosure to third parties; report to the FCC on service outages; comply with telemarketing regulations and other privacy and data security requirements; comply with disabilities access requirements and service discontinuance obligations; comply with call signaling requirements; and comply with CALEA standards. In August 2015, the FCC adopted new rules to improve the resiliency of the communications network. Under the new rules, providers of telephony services, including interconnected VoIP service providers, must make available eight hours of standby backup power for consumers to purchase at the point of sale. The rules also require that providers inform new and current customers about service limitations during power outages and steps that consumers can take to address those risks.
We provide traditional telecommunications services in various states through our operating subsidiaries, and those services are largely governed under rules established for CLECs under the Communications Act. The Communications Act entitles our CLEC subsidiaries to certain rights, but as telecommunications carriers, it also subjects them to regulation by the FCC and the states. Their designation as telecommunications carriers results in other regulations that may affect them and the services they offer.
Interconnection and Intercarrier Compensation. The Communications Act requires telecommunications carriers to interconnect directly or indirectly with other telecommunications carriers and networks, including VoIP. Under the FCC's intercarrier compensation rules, we are entitled, in some cases, to compensation from carriers when they use our network to terminate or originate calls and in other cases are required to compensate another carrier for using its network to originate or terminate traffic. The FCC and state regulatory commissions, including those in the states in which we operate, have adopted limits on the amounts of compensation that may be charged for certain types of traffic. In an October 2011 Order, the FCC determined that intercarrier compensation for all terminating traffic, including VoIP traffic exchanged in time-division multiplexing ("TDM") format, would be phased down over several years to a "bill-and-keep" regime, with no compensation between carriers for most terminating traffic by 2018. The FCC is considering further reform that could reduce or eliminate compensation for originating traffic as well.
Universal Service. Our CLEC subsidiaries are required to contribute to the USF. The amount of universal service contribution required of us is based on a percentage of revenues earned from interstate and international services provided to end users. We allocate our end user revenues and remit payments to the universal service fund in accordance with FCC rules. The FCC has ruled that states may impose state universal service fees on CLEC telecommunications services.
Other Regulation. Our CLEC subsidiaries' telecommunications services are subject to other FCC requirements, including protecting the use and disclosure of customer proprietary network information; meeting certain notice requirements in the event of service termination; compliance with disabilities access requirements; compliance with CALEA standards; outage reporting; and the payment of fees to fund local number portability administration and the North American Numbering Plan. As noted above, the FCC and states are examining whether new requirements are necessary to improve the resiliency of communications networks, including heightened backup power requirements within the provider's network. Communications with our customers are also subject to FCC, FTC and state regulations on telemarketing and the sending of unsolicited commercial e-mail and fax messages, as well as additional privacy and data security requirements.
State Regulation. Our CLEC subsidiaries' telecommunications services are subject to regulation by state commissions in each state where we provide services. In order to provide our services, we must seek approval from the state regulatory commission or be registered to provide services in each state where we operate and may at times require local approval to construct facilities. Regulatory obligations vary from state to state and include some or all of the following requirements: filing tariffs (rates, terms and conditions); filing operational, financial, and customer service reports; seeking approval to transfer the assets or capital stock of the broadband communications company; seeking approval to issue stocks, bonds and other forms of indebtedness of the broadband communications company;
reporting customer service and quality of service requirements; outage reporting; making contributions to state universal service support programs; paying regulatory and state Telecommunications Relay Service and E911 fees; geographic build-out; and other matters relating to competition.
In September 2019, we launched Altice Mobile, our mobile service using our own core infrastructure and our infrastructure mobile virtual network operator ("iMVNO") agreements with Sprint and other roaming partners, including AT&T. Our mobile wireless service is subject to most of the same FCC and consumer protection regulations as typical, network-based wireless carriers (such as E911 services, local number portability, privacy protection, and constraints on billing and advertising practices). The FCC or other regulatory authorities may adopt new or different regulations that apply to our services or similarly situated providers, impose new taxes or fees, or modify the obligations of other network-based carriers to provide wholesale RAN access to providers like Altice USA.
We may provide other services and features over our cable system, such as games and interactive advertising, that may be subject to a range of federal, state and local laws, such as privacy and consumer protection regulations. We also maintain various websites that provide information and content regarding our businesses. The operation of these websites is also subject to a similar range of regulations.
Our cable, Internet, voice, wireless and advertising services are subject to various federal, state and local laws and regulations, as well as, in instances where we operate outside of the U.S., the laws and regulations of the countries and regions where we operate, regarding subscriber privacy, data security, data protection, and data use. Our provision of Internet services subjects us to the limitations on use and disclosure of user communications and records contained in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. Broadband Internet access service is also subject to various privacy laws applicable to electronic communications. We are subject to various state regulations and enforcement oversight related to our policies and practices covering the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information. In 2018, California passed a comprehensive privacy act aimed at increasing disclosure requirements, privacy protections, and the rights of consumers to identify and delete stored private data, subject to some limited business exceptions. The California law became effective on January 1, 2020. We expect further scrutiny of privacy practices at all levels of government in the areas where we operate, and implementing systems to comply with new rules could impact our business opportunities and impose operating costs on the business.
Our i24 operation has employees and offices in the European Union ("EU") that are subject to the General Data Protection Regulation ("GDPR"). Further, our a4 advertising business conducts limited business with customers that advertise in the EU. As such, we have certain compliance obligations with EU and member state (and UK) laws and regulations, including compliance obligations under the GDPR, and bear potential enforcement risks and fines if we fail to comply, even as the application of those regulations to some of our operations are unclear or are unknown.
Our business operations are subject to environmental laws and regulations, including regulations governing the use, storage, disposal of, and exposure to hazardous materials, the release of pollutants into the environment and the remediation of contamination. In part as a result of the increasing public awareness concerning the importance of environmental regulations, these regulations have become more stringent over time. Amended or new regulations could impact our operations and costs.
Employees and Labor Relations
As of December 31, 2020, we had approximately 8,900 employees. Approximately 600 of our employees were represented by unions as of such date. Approximately 97% of our employees are U.S based. Our employees perform work in a variety of environments, including customers’ homes or businesses, in the field, and onsite in retail stores, centers or offices. In fiscal year 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on our workforce management approach. A majority of our workforce worked remotely for a significant part of the year, , and we instituted safety protocols and procedures for the essential employees who continued to work in customer locations and in the field.
Diversity and Inclusion
Together has no limits is our cultural anthem. Together represents inclusion and opportunity for all types of people throughout our company.
Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is rooted in providing our employees and our customers with the best experience possible. Our approach is informed by best practices in recruitment, retention, community and culture, which will help us build a company that is welcoming, respectful and with equal opportunities for all.
To support this vision, we created employee Affinity Groups that foster communities with shared interests and backgrounds. Through professional development sessions, networking events, panels and community events, our Affinity Groups are helping to create a greater sense of belonging, improve understanding of differences, and inform businesses practices and policies.
Compensation and Benefits
We are committed to providing a competitive total rewards program that assists us in attracting and retaining our talent. Our compensation program targets market competitive pay and provides an opportunity for our full time non-union employees to earn performance based incentive compensation. Our market competitive and inclusive benefits program includes healthcare benefits, life and disability insurance, 401(k) plan with company matching contributions, paid time off, and other voluntary benefit programs.
Available Information and Website
We make available free of charge, through our investor relations section at our website, http://www.alticeusa.com, our Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and our Current Reports on Form 8-K and all amendments to those reports as soon as reasonably practicable after such material is electronically filed with or furnished to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"). Website references in this report are provided as a convenience and do not constitute, and should not be viewed as, incorporation by reference of the information contained on, or available through, the websites. Therefore, such information should not be considered part of this report.
Item 1A. Risk Factors
Summary of Risk Factors
Our business is subject to a number of risks that may impact our business and prospects. The following summary identifies certain risk factors that may prevent us from achieving our business objectives or may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. These and other risks are discussed in detail in the section that follows.
Risk Factors Relating to Our Business
•We operate in a highly competitive business environment.
•We face significant risks as a result of rapid changes in technology, consumer expectations and behavior.
•Programming and retransmission costs are increasing and disputes with programmers and the inability to retain or obtain popular programming can adversely affect our relationship with customers.
•We may not be able to successfully implement our growth strategy.
•Our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
•The financial markets are subject to volatility and disruptions, which may adversely affect our business.
•We are highly leveraged and have substantial indebtedness and may incur additional indebtedness.
•We have in past periods incurred substantial losses from continuing operations, and we may do so in the future.
•A lowering or withdrawal of the ratings assigned to our subsidiaries' debt securities and credit facilities by ratings agencies may increase our future borrowing costs and reduce our access to capital.
•Our subsidiaries' ability to meet obligations under their indebtedness may be restricted by limitations on our other subsidiaries' ability to send funds.
•We are subject to significant restrictive covenants under the agreements governing our indebtedness.
•We will need to raise significant amounts of funding over the next several years to fund capital expenditures, repay existing obligations and meet other obligations; we may also engage in extraordinary transactions that involve the incurrence of large amounts of indebtedness.
•Changes or uncertainty in respect of LIBOR may affect our sources of funding.
•We rely on network and information systems for our operations and a disruption or failure of, or defects in, those systems may disrupt our operations or damage our reputation with customers.
•If we experience a significant data security breach, our results of operations and reputation could suffer.
•The terms of existing or new collective bargaining agreements with our represented workforce can increase our expense and labor disruptions could adversely affect us.
•A significant amount of our book value consists of intangible assets that may not generate cash in the event of a voluntary or involuntary sale.
•We may engage in acquisitions, dispositions and other strategic transactions and the integration of such acquisitions, the sales of assets and other strategic transactions could materially adversely affect us.
•Significant unanticipated increases in the use of bandwidth-intensive Internet-based services could increase our costs.
•Our business depends on intellectual property rights and on not infringing on others' intellectual property rights.
•We may be liable for the material that content providers distribute over our networks.
•If we are unable to retain key employees, our ability to manage our business could be adversely affected.
•Impairment of Altice Europe's or Mr. Drahi's reputation could adversely affect current and future customers' perception of Altice USA.
•Macroeconomic developments may adversely affect our business.
•Online piracy could result in reduced revenues and increased expenditures.
•Our mobile wireless service will be subject to startup risk, competition, and risks associated with the price and availability of wholesale access to RAN.
Risk Factors Relating to Regulatory and Legislative Matters
•Our business is subject to extensive governmental legislation and regulation.
•Our cable system franchises are subject to non-renewal or termination.
•Our cable system franchises are non-exclusive.
•Local franchising authorities have the ability to impose additional regulatory constraints on our business.
•Further regulation of the cable industry could restrict our marketing options or impair our ability to raise rates.
•We may be materially adversely affected by regulatory changes related to pole attachments.
•Changes in channel carriage regulations could impose significant additional costs on us.
•Increasing regulation of our Internet-based products and services could adversely affect our ability to provide new products and services.
•Offering telephone services may subject us to additional regulatory burdens, causing us to incur additional costs.
•Our mobile service exposes us to regulatory risk.
•We may be materially adversely affected by regulatory, legal and economic changes relating to our physical plant.
Risk Factors Relating to Ownership of Our Class A Common Stock and Class B Common Stock
•An active, liquid trading market for our Class B common stock has not developed and we cannot assure you that an active, liquid trading market will develop in the future.
•Our stockholders' percentage ownership in us may be diluted by future issuances of capital stock.
•We have no current plans to pay cash dividends on our Class A common stock or Class B common stock for the foreseeable future.
•Future sales, or the perception of future sales, by us or our existing stockholders in the public market could cause the market price of our Class A common stock to decline.
•The tri-class structure of Altice USA common stock has the effect of concentrating voting control with Next Alt.
•Next Alt controls us and its interests may conflict with ours or our stockholders in the future.
•Anti-takeover provisions in our organizational documents could prevent a change of control transaction.
•Holders of a single class of Altice USA common stock may not have any remedies if an action by our directors has an adverse effect on only that class of Altice USA common stock.
•We are a "controlled company" within the meaning of the rules of the NYSE.
•If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, if they adversely change their recommendations regarding our Class A common stock, or if our operating results do not meet their expectations, the market price of our Class A common stock could decline.
•We are subject to securities class action litigation related to our 2017 initial public offering and we may be subject to additional securities class action litigation in the future.
•Our amended and restated bylaws provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware is the exclusive forum for substantially all disputes between us and our stockholders.
Risk Factors Relating to Our Business
We operate in a highly competitive business environment which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity.
We operate in a highly competitive, consumer-driven industry and we compete against a variety of broadband, video and telephony providers and delivery systems, including broadband communications companies, wireless data and telephony providers, satellite-delivered video signals, Internet-delivered video content and broadcast television signals available to residential and business customers in our service areas. Some of our competitors include AT&T and its DirecTV subsidiary, CenturyLink, DISH, Frontier and Verizon. In addition, our video services compete with all other sources of leisure, news, information and entertainment, including movies, sporting or other live events, radio broadcasts, home-video services, console games, print media and the Internet.
In some instances, our competitors have fewer regulatory burdens, easier access to financing, greater resources, greater operating capabilities and efficiencies of scale, stronger brand-name recognition, longstanding relationships with regulatory authorities and customers, more customers, more flexibility to offer promotional packages at prices lower than ours and greater access to programming or other services. This competition creates pressure on our pricing and has adversely affected, and may continue to affect, our ability to add and retain customers, which in turn adversely affects our business, financial condition and results of operations. The effects of competition may also adversely affect our liquidity and ability to service our debt. For example, we face intense competition from Verizon, which has constructed FTTH network infrastructure that passes a significant number of households in our New York metropolitan service area. We estimate that Verizon is currently able to sell a fiber-based triple play, including broadband, video and telephony services, to at least half of the households in our New York metropolitan service area and may expand these and other service offerings to more customers in the future. The extent of Verizon's build-out and sales activity in our New York metropolitan service area is difficult to assess because it is based on visual inspections and other limited estimating techniques and therefore serves only as an approximation.
Our competitive risks are heightened by the rapid technological change inherent in our business, evolving consumer preferences and the need to acquire, develop and adopt new technology to differentiate our products and services from those of our competitors, and to meet consumer demand. We may need to anticipate far in advance which technology we should use for the development of new products and services or the enhancement of existing products and services. The failure to accurately anticipate such changes may adversely affect our ability to attract and retain customers, which in turn could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Consolidation and cooperation in our industry may allow our competitors to acquire service capabilities or offer products that are not available to us or offer similar products and services at prices lower than ours.
In addition, certain of our competitors own directly or are affiliated with companies that own programming content or have exclusive arrangements with content providers that may enable them to obtain lower programming costs or offer exclusive programming that may be attractive to prospective customers. For example, DirecTV has exclusive arrangements with the National Football League that give it access to programming we cannot offer. Further, in 2018 AT&T acquired Time Warner, which owns a number of cable networks, including TBS, CNN and HBO, as well as Warner Bros. Entertainment, which produces television, film and home-video content. AT&T's and DirecTV's access to Time Warner programming and studio assets provides AT&T and DirecTV the ability to offer competitive promotional packages that could negatively affect our ability to maintain or increase our existing customers and revenues. DBS operators such as DISH and DirecTV also have marketing arrangements with certain phone companies in which the DBS provider's video services are sold together with the phone company's broadband and mobile and traditional phone services.
Another source of competition for our video services is the delivery of video content over the Internet directly to customers, some of which is offered without charging a fee for access to the content. This competition comes from a number of different sources, including companies that deliver movies, television shows and other video programming, including extensive on demand, live content, serials, exclusive and original content, over broadband Internet connections to televisions, computers, tablets and mobile devices, such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, iTunes, Apple TV, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Sling TV, AT&T TV Now, Locast and others. It is possible that additional competitors will enter the market and begin providing video content over the Internet directly to customers. Increasingly, content owners, such as HBO, CBS, Disney and ESPN, are selling their programming directly to consumers over the Internet without requiring a video subscription. The availability of these services has and will continue to adversely affect customer demand for our video services, including premium and on-demand services. Further, due to consumer electronics innovations, consumers can watch such Internet-delivered content on television sets and mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Internet access services are also offered by providers of wireless services, including traditional cellular phone carriers and others focused solely on wireless data services.
Our video services also face competition from broadcast television stations, entities that make digital video recorded movies and programs available for home rental or sale, satellite master antenna television ("SMATV") systems, which generally serve large MDUs under an agreement with the landlord and service providers and open video system operators. Private cable systems can offer improved reception of local television stations and many of the same satellite-delivered program services that are offered by cable systems. SMATV systems currently benefit from operating advantages not available to franchised cable systems, including fewer regulatory burdens. Cable television has also long competed with broadcast television, which consists of television signals that the viewer is able to receive without charge using an "off-air" antenna. The extent of such competition is dependent upon the quality and quantity of broadcast signals available through "off-air" reception, compared to the services provided by the local cable system. The use of radio spectrum now provides traditional broadcasters with the ability to deliver HD television pictures and multiple digital-quality program streams. There can be no assurance that existing, proposed or as yet undeveloped technologies will not become dominant in the future and render our video service offering less profitable or even obsolete.
Our broadband service faces competition from wired and wireless providers. Most broadband communications companies, which already have wired networks, an existing customer base and other operational functions in place (such as billing and service personnel), offer DSL, cable or FTTH/FTTP services. We believe these services compete with our broadband service and are often offered at prices comparable to or lower than our Internet services and, despite sometimes being offered at speeds lower than the speeds we offer, are capable of serving as substitutes for some consumers. In addition, to the extent that these providers’ networks are more ubiquitously deployed, such as traditional telephone networks, they may be in a better position to offer Internet services to businesses passed by their networks on a more economic or timely basis than we can, even if the services they offer are arguably inferior. They may also increasingly have the ability to combine video services, mobile services and telephone and Internet services offered to their customers, either directly or through co-marketing agreements with other service providers.
Mobile broadband providers may be able to provide services that substitute for our fixed and mobile broadband service. Current and future fixed and wireless Internet services, such as 4G, LTE and 5G (and variants) wireless broadband services and WiFi networks, and devices such as wireless data cards, tablets and smartphones, and mobile wireless routers that connect to such devices, may also compete with our broadband services both for in premises broadband service and mobile broadband. All major wireless carriers have started to offer unlimited data plans,
which could, in some cases, become a substitute for the fixed broadband services we provide. The FCC is likely to continue to make additional radio spectrum available for these wireless Internet access services, which in time could expand the quality and reach of these services.
Our telephony services, including the mobile wireless voice and data service that we launched in 2019, compete directly with established broadband communications companies and other carriers, including wireless providers, as increasing numbers of homes are replacing their traditional telephone service with wireless telephone service. We also compete against VoIP providers like Vonage, Skype, GoogleTalk, Facetime, WhatsApp and magicJack that do not own networks but can provide service to any person with a broadband connection, in some cases free of charge. Our telephony services also face competition from substitute services such as SMS, chat, Apple Messaging, WhatsApp and similar communications services.
In addition, we compete against ILECs, other CLECs and long-distance voice-service companies for large commercial and enterprise customers. While we compete with the ILECs, we also enter into interconnection agreements with ILECs so that our customers can make and receive calls to and from customers served by the ILECs and other telecommunications providers. Federal and state law and regulations require ILECs to enter into such agreements and provide facilities and services necessary for connection, at prices subject to regulation. The specific price, terms and conditions of each agreement, however, depend on the outcome of negotiations between us and each ILEC. Interconnection agreements are also subject to approval by the state regulatory commissions, which may arbitrate negotiation impasses. We have entered into interconnection agreements with Verizon for New York, New Jersey and portions of Connecticut, and with Frontier for portions of Connecticut, which have been approved by the respective state commissions. We have also entered into interconnection agreements with other ILECs in New York and New Jersey and in each of the other states where we offer VoIP and telecommunications services in the Suddenlink territories. These agreements, like all interconnection agreements, are for limited terms and upon expiration are subject to renegotiation, potential arbitration and approval under the laws in effect at that time.
Our advertising business faces competition from traditional and non-traditional media outlets, such as television and radio stations, traditional print media and the Internet, including Facebook, Google and others.
We face significant risks as a result of rapid changes in technology, consumer expectations and behavior.
The broadband communications industry has undergone significant technological development over time and these changes continue to affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Such changes have had, and will continue to have, a profound impact on consumer expectations and behavior. Our video business faces technological change risks as a result of the continuing development of new and changing methods for delivery of programming content such as Internet-based delivery of movies, shows and other content which can be viewed on televisions, wireless devices and other developing mobile devices. Consumers' video consumption patterns are also evolving, for example, with more content being downloaded for time-shifted consumption. A proliferation of delivery systems for video content can adversely affect our ability to attract and retain customers and the demand for our services and it can also decrease advertising demand on our delivery systems. Our broadband business faces technological challenges from rapidly evolving wireless Internet solutions. Our telephony service offerings face technological developments in the proliferation of telephony delivery systems including those based on Internet and wireless delivery. If we do not develop or acquire and successfully implement new technologies, we will limit our ability to compete effectively for customers, content and advertising.
Many of our video customers take delivery of their services through our set-top box and combined home communications hub, the Altice One. Increasingly, customers are able to enjoy our content or other content through other devices, such as Roku, Apple TV, or "smart" TVs, which eliminates or reduces the need to use our devices. Our Altice One communications hub allows our customers to aggregate many services in a manner that is similar to some of these devices. Nonetheless, we cannot provide any assurance that we will realize, in full or in part, the anticipated benefits we expect from the introduction of our home communications hub, Altice One, or that it will be rolled out across our footprint in the timeframe we anticipate. In addition, we may be required to make material capital and other investments to anticipate and to keep up with technological change. These challenges could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In the fourth quarter of 2017, we entered into a multi-year strategic agreement with Sprint pursuant to which we currently utilize Sprint's network to provide mobile voice and data services to our customers throughout the nation, and our broadband network is currently being utilized to accelerate the densification of Sprint's network. We believe this additional product offering will enable us to deliver greater value and more benefits to our customers, by offering mobile voice and data services, in addition to our broadband, video and telephony services. Some of our competitors
already offer, or have announced plans to offer, their own "quad-play" offerings that bundle broadband, video, telephony and mobile voice and data services. If our customers do not view our quad-play offers as competitive with those offered by our competitors, we could experience increased customer churn. We cannot provide any assurance that we will realize, in full or in part, the anticipated benefits we expect from the introduction of our mobile voice and data services, or that they will be introduced to, or adopted by, customers to the extent or in the timeframe we anticipate. In addition, we may be required to make material capital and other investments to develop this business and to anticipate and keep up with technological change. These challenges could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Programming and retransmission costs are increasing and we may not have the ability to pass these increases on to our customers. Disputes with programmers and the inability to retain or obtain popular programming can adversely affect our relationship with customers and lead to customer losses, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Programming costs are one of our largest categories of expenses. In recent years, the cost of programming in the cable and satellite video industries has increased significantly and is expected to continue to increase, particularly with respect to costs for sports programming and broadcast networks. We may not be able to pass programming cost increases on to our customers due to the increasingly competitive environment. If we are unable to pass these increased programming costs on to our customers, our results of operations would be adversely affected. Moreover, programming costs are related directly to the number of customers to whom the programming is provided. Our smaller customer base relative to our competitors may limit our ability to negotiate lower per-customer programming costs, which could result in reduced operating margins relative to our competitors with a larger customer base.
The expiration dates of our various programming contracts are staggered, which results in the expiration of a portion of our programming contracts throughout each year. We attempt to control our programming costs and, therefore, the cost of our video services to our customers, by negotiating favorable terms for the renewal of our affiliation agreements with programmers. On certain occasions in the past, such negotiations have led to disputes with programmers that have resulted in temporary periods during which we did not carry or decided to stop carrying a particular broadcast network or programming service or services. For example, in 2017, we were unable to reach an agreement with Starz on acceptable economic terms, and effective January 1, 2018, all Starz services were removed from our lineups, and we launched alternative networks offered by other programmers under new long-term contracts. On February 13, 2018, we and Starz reached a new carriage agreement and we restored the Starz services previously offered by Optimum and Suddenlink. To the extent we are unable to reach agreement with certain programmers on terms we believe are reasonable, we may be forced to, or determine for strategic or business reasons to, remove certain programming channels from our line-up and may decide to replace such programming channels with other programming channels, which may not be available on acceptable terms or be as attractive to customers. Such disputes, or the removal or replacement of programming, may inconvenience some of our customers and can lead to customer dissatisfaction and, in certain cases, the loss of customers, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity. There can be no assurance that our existing programming contracts will be renewed on favorable or comparable terms, or at all, or that the rights we negotiate will be adequate for us to execute our business strategy.
We may also be subject to increasing financial and other demands by broadcast stations. Federal law allows commercial television broadcast stations to make an election between "must-carry" rights and an alternative "retransmission consent" regime. Local stations that elect "must-carry" are entitled to mandatory carriage on our systems, but at no fee. When a station opts for retransmission consent, cable operators negotiate for the right to carry the station's signal, which typically requires payment of a per-customer fee. Our retransmission agreements with stations expire from time to time. Upon expiration of these agreements, we may carry some stations under short-term arrangements while we attempt to negotiate new long-term retransmission agreements. In connection with any negotiation of new retransmission agreements, we may become subject to increased or additional costs, which we may not be able to pass on to our customers. To the extent that we cannot pass on such increased or additional costs to customers or offset such increased or additional costs through the sale of additional services, our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity could be materially adversely affected. In addition, in the event contract negotiations with stations are unsuccessful, we could be required, or determine for strategic or business reasons, to cease carrying such stations' signals, possibly for an indefinite period. Any loss of stations could make our video service less attractive to our customers, which could result in a loss of customers, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity. There can be no assurance that any expiring retransmission agreements will be renewed on favorable or comparable terms, or at all.
We may not be able to successfully implement our growth strategy.
Our future growth, profitability and results of operations depend upon our ability to successfully implement our business strategy, which, in turn, is dependent upon a number of factors, including our ability to continue to:
•simplify and optimize our organization;
•reinvest in infrastructure and content;
•invest in sales, marketing and innovation;
•enhance the customer experience;
•drive revenue and cash flow growth; and
•opportunistically grow through value-accretive acquisitions.
There can be no assurance that we can successfully achieve any or all of the above initiatives in the manner or time period that we expect. Furthermore, achieving these objectives will require investments which may result in short-term costs without generating any current revenues and therefore may be dilutive to our earnings. We cannot provide any assurance that we will realize, in full or in part, the anticipated benefits we expect our strategy will achieve. The failure to realize those benefits could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, if we are unable to continue improving our operational performance and customer experience we may face a decrease in new customers and an increase in customer churn, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In particular, there can be no assurance that we will be able to successfully implement our plan to build a FTTH network within the anticipated timeline or at all or within the cost parameters we currently expect. Similarly, we may not be successful in deploying Altice One, or the mobile voice and data services we recently launched, on our current timeline or realize, in full or in part, the anticipated benefits we expect from the introduction thereof, and we may face technological, financial, legal, regulatory or other challenges in pursuing these or other initiatives.
Our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by the recent COVID-19 pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic ("COVID-19"), and measures to prevent its spread, may have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. The severity and timing of the impact will depend on a number of factors, including the level and rapidity of infection, duration of containment measures, changes in consumer spending patterns, measures imposed or taken by governmental authorities in response to the pandemic, macroeconomic conditions in our markets, and negative effects on the financial condition of our customers.
Under difficult economic conditions, including prolonged unemployment and employment furloughs, demand for our products and services could decline and some customers may be unable or unwilling to pay for our products and services. Additionally, in order to prioritize the demands of the business, we may delay certain capital investments, such as FTTH or in other new initiatives, products or services, which may adversely affect our business in the future. If these events occur and were to continue, our revenue may be reduced materially which could result in reduced operating margins and a reduction in cash flows.
Governmental and non-governmental initiatives to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, such as the imposition of restrictions on work and public gatherings and the promotion of social distancing, along with new government service, collection, pricing or rebate mandates, such as New Jersey’s recent executive order to maintain broadband service for non-paying customers, have impacted and could continue to impact our operations and financial results. Our suppliers and vendors also may be affected by such measures in their ability to provide products and services to us and these measures could also make it more difficult for us to serve our customers.
In addition, the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on our business, financial condition and results of operations could exacerbate the other risks identified in this section.
The financial markets are subject to volatility and disruptions, which have in the past, and may in the future, adversely affect our business, including by affecting the cost of new capital and our ability to fund acquisitions or other strategic transactions.
From time to time the capital markets experience volatility and disruption. Volatility in the capital markets may be impacted by a number of factors. Some of the main factors which contributed to capital markets volatility in recent months included, for example, uncertainty between the United States and other countries with respect to trade policies, treaties, and tariffs, the outlook for interest rates, and continued uncertainty surrounding the effects of the
decision by the United Kingdom to exit the EU, which formally occurred on January 31, 2020. There can be no assurance that market conditions will not continue to be volatile or worsen in the future.
Historical market disruptions have typically been accompanied by a broader economic downturn, which has historically led to lower demand for our products, such as video services, as well as lower levels of television advertising, and increased incidence of customers' inability to pay for the services we provide. A recurrence of these conditions may further adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We rely on the capital markets, particularly for offerings of debt securities and borrowings under syndicated facilities, to meet our financial commitments and liquidity needs if we are unable to generate sufficient cash from operations to fund such anticipated commitments and needs and to fund acquisitions or other strategic transactions. Disruptions or volatility in the capital markets could also adversely affect our ability to refinance on satisfactory terms, or at all, our scheduled debt maturities and could adversely affect our ability to draw on our revolving credit facilities.
Disruptions in the capital markets as well as the broader global financial market can also result in higher interest rates on any new debt securities we issue and increased costs under credit facilities which bear floating interest rates. Such disruptions could increase our interest expense, adversely affecting our business, financial position and results of operations.
Our access to funds under our revolving credit facilities is dependent on the ability of the financial institutions that are parties to those facilities to meet their funding commitments. Those financial institutions may not be able to meet their funding commitments if they experience shortages of capital and liquidity or if they experience excessive volumes of borrowing requests within a short period of time. Moreover, the obligations of the financial institutions under our revolving credit facilities are several and not joint and, as a result, a funding default by one or more institutions does not need to be made up by the others.
Longer term, volatility and disruptions in the capital markets and the broader global financial market as a result of uncertainty, changing or increased regulation of financial institutions, reduced alternatives or failures of significant financial institutions could adversely affect our access to the liquidity needed for our businesses. Such disruptions could require us to take measures to conserve cash or impede or delay potential acquisitions, strategic transactions and refinancing transactions until the markets stabilize or until alternative credit arrangements or other funding for our business needs can be arranged.
We are highly leveraged and have substantial indebtedness, which reduces our capability to withstand adverse developments or business conditions. If we incur additional indebtedness, such indebtedness could further exacerbate the risks associated with our substantial indebtedness.
Our subsidiaries have incurred substantial amounts of indebtedness in connection with acquisitions and to finance the Cequel Acquisition, the Cablevision Acquisition, our operations, upgrades to our cable plant and acquisitions of other cable systems, sources of programming and other businesses. We have also incurred substantial indebtedness in order to offer new or upgraded services to our current and potential customers. At December 31, 2020, the carrying value of our total aggregate indebtedness, including collateralized indebtedness, was approximately $26.7 billion. Because we are highly leveraged, our payments on our indebtedness are significant in relation to our revenues and cash flow, which exposes us to significant risk in the event of downturns in our businesses (whether through competitive pressures or otherwise), our industry or the economy generally, since our cash flows would decrease, but our required payments under our indebtedness would not. Any decrease in our revenues or an increase in operating costs (and corresponding reduction in our cash flows) would therefore adversely affect our ability to make interest or principal payments on our indebtedness as they come due.
Economic downturns may also impact our ability to comply with the covenants and restrictions in our indentures, credit facilities and other agreements governing our indebtedness and may impact our ability to pay or refinance our indebtedness as it comes due. If we do not repay or refinance our debt obligations when they become due and do not otherwise comply with the covenants and restrictions in our indentures, credit facilities and other agreements governing our indebtedness, we would be in default under those agreements and the underlying debt could be declared immediately due and payable. In addition, any default under any of our indentures, credit facilities or other agreements governing our indebtedness could lead to an acceleration of debt under any other debt instruments or agreements that contain cross-acceleration or cross-default provisions. If the indebtedness incurred under our indentures, credit facilities and other agreements governing our indebtedness were accelerated, we would not have sufficient cash to repay amounts due thereunder. To avoid a default, we could be required to defer capital expenditures, sell assets, seek strategic investments from third parties or otherwise reduce or eliminate discretionary uses of cash. However, if such measures were to become necessary, there can be no assurance that we would be able
to sell sufficient assets or raise strategic investment capital sufficient to meet our scheduled debt maturities as they come due. In addition, any significant reduction in necessary capital expenditures could adversely affect our ability to retain our existing customer base and obtain new customers, which would adversely affect our business, financial position and results of operations.
Our overall leverage and the terms of our financing arrangements could also:
•make it more difficult for us to satisfy obligations under our outstanding indebtedness;
•limit our ability to obtain additional debt or equity financing in the future, including for working capital, capital expenditures or acquisitions, and increase the costs of such financing;
•limit our ability to refinance our indebtedness on terms acceptable to us or at all;
•limit our ability to adapt to changing market conditions;
•restrict us from making strategic acquisitions or cause us to make non-strategic divestitures;
•require us to dedicate a significant portion of our cash flow from operations to paying the principal of and interest on our indebtedness, thereby limiting the availability of our cash flow to fund future capital expenditures, working capital, research and development, and other corporate purposes;
•increase our vulnerability to or limit our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the broadband communications industry generally as well as general economic conditions, including the risk of increased interest rates;
•place us at a competitive disadvantage compared with competitors that have a less significant debt burden; and
•adversely affect public perception of us and our brands.
In addition, a substantial portion of our indebtedness bears interest at variable rates. If market interest rates increase, our variable-rate debt will have higher debt service requirements, which could adversely affect our cash flows and financial condition. For more information, see "Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk—Interest Rate Risk." Although we have historically entered into, and may in the future enter into, hedging arrangements to limit our exposure to an increase in interest rates or to other risks, such arrangements may not offer complete protection from these risks. In addition, the nature of these hedges could prevent us from realizing benefits we would have received had the hedge not been put in place, such as if interest rates fall.
The terms of our existing indebtedness restrict, but do not prohibit, us from incurring additional indebtedness. We may increase our consolidated indebtedness for various business reasons, which might include, among others, financing acquisitions or other strategic transactions, funding prepayment premiums, if any, on the debt we refinance, funding distributions to our shareholders or general corporate purposes. If we incur additional indebtedness, such indebtedness will be added to our current debt levels and the above-described risks we currently face could be magnified.
We have in past periods incurred substantial losses from continuing operations, and we may do so in the future, which may reduce our ability to raise needed capital.
We have in the past incurred substantial losses from continuing operations and we may do so in the future. Significant losses from continuing operations could limit our ability to raise any needed financing, or to do so on favorable terms, as such losses could be taken into account by potential investors, lenders and the organizations that issue investment ratings on our indebtedness.
A lowering or withdrawal of the ratings assigned to our subsidiaries' debt securities and credit facilities by ratings agencies may increase our future borrowing costs and reduce our access to capital.
Credit rating agencies continually revise their ratings for companies they follow. The condition of the financial and credit markets and prevailing interest rates have fluctuated in the past and are likely to fluctuate in the future. In addition, developments in our business and operations or the amount of indebtedness could lead to a ratings downgrade on our or our subsidiaries' indebtedness. The debt ratings for our subsidiaries' debt securities and credit facilities are currently below the "investment grade" category, which results in higher borrowing costs and more restrictive covenants in our indentures and credit facilities, as well as a reduced pool of potential investors of that debt as some investors will not purchase debt securities or become lenders under credit facilities that are not rated in an investment grade rating category. In addition, there can be no assurance that any rating assigned will remain for any given period of time or that a rating will not be lowered or withdrawn entirely by a rating agency, if in that rating agency's judgment, future circumstances relating to the basis of the rating, such as adverse changes, so warrant. Our
credit rating (including the credit rating assigned to our subsidiaries’ debt securities and credit facilities) has in the past been and may continue to be impacted by a number of factors, including the effects of the U.S. economy experiencing an uneven recovery following a protracted slowdown, factors affecting the broadband communications and video service industry, our operating performance and our financing activities. Any such fluctuation in the rating of us or our subsidiaries may impact our ability to access debt markets in the future or increase our cost of future debt which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations, which in return may adversely affect the market price of shares of our Class A common stock.
Our subsidiaries' ability to meet obligations under their indebtedness may be restricted by limitations on our other subsidiaries' ability to send funds.
Our primary debt obligations have been incurred by our subsidiaries, mainly CSC Holdings, LLC ("CSC Holdings"). A portion of the indebtedness incurred by CSC Holdings is not guaranteed by any of its subsidiaries. CSC Holdings is primarily a holding company whose ability to pay interest and principal on such indebtedness is wholly or partially dependent upon the operations of its subsidiaries and the distributions or other payments of cash, in the form of distributions, loans or advances, those other subsidiaries deliver to our indebted subsidiaries. Our subsidiaries are separate and distinct legal entities and, unless any such subsidiaries has guaranteed the underlying indebtedness, have no obligation, contingent or otherwise, to pay any amounts due on our indebted subsidiaries' indebtedness or to make any funds available to our indebted subsidiaries to do so. These subsidiaries may not generate enough cash to make such funds available to our indebted subsidiaries and in certain circumstances legal and contractual restrictions may also limit their ability to do so.
Also, our subsidiaries' creditors, including trade creditors, in the event of a liquidation or reorganization of any subsidiary, would be entitled to a claim on the assets of such subsidiaries, including any assets transferred to those subsidiaries, prior to any of our claims as a stockholder and those creditors are likely to be paid in full before any distribution is made to us. To the extent that we are a creditor of a subsidiary, our claims could be subordinated to any security interest in the assets of that subsidiary and/or any indebtedness of that subsidiary senior to that held by us.
We are subject to significant restrictive covenants under the agreements governing our indebtedness.
The indentures, credit facilities and agreements governing the indebtedness of our subsidiaries contain various negative covenants that restrict our subsidiaries' (and their respective subsidiaries') ability to, among other things:
•incur additional indebtedness and guarantee indebtedness;
•pay dividends or make other distributions, or repurchase or redeem capital stock;
•prepay, redeem or repurchase subordinated debt or equity;
•issue certain preferred stock;
•make loans and investments;
•enter into transactions with affiliates;
•create or permit any encumbrances or restrictions on the ability of their respective subsidiaries to pay dividends or make other distributions, make loans or advances or transfer assets, in each case to such subsidiary, or its other restricted subsidiaries; and
•consolidate, merge or sell all or substantially all of their assets.
We are also subject to certain affirmative covenants under our subsidiary's revolving credit facility, which, among other things, require our operating subsidiaries to maintain a specified financial ratio if there are any outstanding loans thereunder. Our ability to meet these financial ratios may be affected by events beyond our control and, as a result, there can be no assurance that we will be able to meet these ratios.
Violation of these covenants could result in a default that would permit the relevant creditors to require the immediate repayment of the borrowings thereunder, which could result in a default under other debt instruments and agreements that contain cross-default provisions and, in the case of our revolving credit facility, permit the relevant lenders to restrict the relevant borrower's ability to borrow undrawn funds under such revolving credit facility. A default under any of the agreements governing our indebtedness could materially adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
As a result, we may be:
•limited in how we conduct our business;
•unable to raise additional debt or equity financing to operate during general economic or business downturns; or
•unable to compete effectively or to take advantage of new business opportunities.
These restrictions could have a material adverse effect on our ability to grow in accordance with our strategy and on the value of our debt and equity securities.
We will need to raise significant amounts of funding over the next several years to fund capital expenditures, repay existing obligations and meet other obligations and the failure to do so successfully could adversely affect our business. We may also engage in extraordinary transactions that involve the incurrence of large amounts of indebtedness.
Our business is capital intensive. Operating and maintaining our cable systems requires significant amounts of cash payments to third parties. Capital expenditures were $1,074.0 million, $1,355.4 million and $1,153.6 million in 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively, and primarily included payments for customer premise equipment, network infrastructure, support and other costs.
We are building a FTTH network, and we continue to upgrade our existing HFC network. During the fourth quarter of 2017, we introduced an entertainment and connectivity hub, Altice One, and we continue to expand the availability of this device across our footprint, as well as its functionality. Also in the fourth quarter of 2017, we entered into a multi-year strategic agreement pursuant to which we currently utilize Sprint's network to provide mobile voice and data services to our customers throughout the nation, and our broadband network is currently being utilized to accelerate the densification of Sprint's network. We may not be able to execute these initiatives within the anticipated timelines, or at all, and we may incur greater than anticipated costs and capital expenditures, fail to realize anticipated benefits, experience business disruptions or encounter other challenges to executing these initiatives which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We expect these capital expenditures to continue to be significant as we further enhance our service offerings. We may have substantial future capital commitments in the form of long-term contracts that require substantial payments over a period of time. In the longer term, our ability to fund our operations, make planned capital expenditures, make scheduled payments on our indebtedness and repay our indebtedness depends on our future operating performance and cash flows and our ability to access the capital markets, which, in turn, are subject to prevailing economic conditions and to financial, business and other factors, some of which are beyond our control. Competition, market disruptions or deterioration in economic conditions could lead to lower demand for our products, as well as lower levels of advertising, and increased incidence of customers' inability to pay for the services we provide. These events would adversely impact our results of operations, cash flows and financial position. As such, we may not be able to generate sufficient cash internally to fund anticipated capital expenditures, make ongoing interest payments and repay our indebtedness at maturity. Accordingly, we may have to do one or more of the following:
•refinance existing obligations to extend maturities;
•raise additional capital, through bank loans, debt or equity issuances or a combination thereof;
•cancel or scale back current and future spending programs; or
•sell assets or interests in one or more of our businesses.
However, we may not be able to refinance existing obligations or raise any required additional capital on terms acceptable to us or at all. Borrowing costs related to future capital raising activities may be significantly higher than our current borrowing costs and we may not be able to raise additional capital on favorable terms, or at all, if financial markets experience volatility. If we are unable to pursue our current and future spending programs, we may be forced to cancel or scale back those programs. Our choice of which spending programs to cancel or reduce may be limited. Failure to successfully pursue our capital expenditure and other spending plans could materially and adversely affect our ability to compete effectively. It is possible that in the future we may also engage in extraordinary transactions and such transactions could result in the incurrence of substantial additional indebtedness.
Changes or uncertainty in respect of LIBOR may affect our sources of funding.
The interest rates applicable to some of our sources of funding are linked to LIBOR. Various interest rate benchmarks (including LIBOR) are the subject of recent regulatory guidance and proposals for reform. Some reforms
are already effective while others are still to be implemented, including the EU Benchmark Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/1011). In addition, the sustainability of LIBOR has been questioned by the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) as a result of the absence of relevant active underlying markets and possible disincentives (including possibly as a result of regulatory reforms) for market participants to continue contributing to such benchmarks. On November 29, 2017, the Bank of England and the FCA announced that the Working Group on Sterling Risk-Free Rates (the "Working Group") would have an extended mandate to catalyze a broad transition to the Sterling Overnight Index Average rate (“SONIA”) across sterling bond, loan and derivatives markets so that SONIA is established as the primary sterling interest rate benchmark by the end of 2021. In January 2020, the Working Group published their priorities and milestones on the LIBOR transition, which includes taking steps to promote and enable widespread use of SONIA compounded in arrears, enabling a further shift of volumes from GBP LIBOR to SONIA in derivative markets and establishing a clear framework to manage transition of legacy LIBOR products. Further, the Bank of England and FCA published a press release in support of the objectives of the Working Group and announcing the next steps for LIBOR transition in 2020. These reforms and other pressures may cause such benchmarks to disappear entirely, to perform differently than in the past (as a result of a change in methodology or otherwise), create disincentives for market participants to continue to administer or participate in certain benchmarks or have other consequences which cannot be predicted. Based on the foregoing, investors should in particular be aware that:
•any of the reforms or pressures described above or any other changes to a relevant interest rate benchmark (including LIBOR) could affect the level of the published rate, including to cause it to be lower and/or more volatile than it would otherwise be; and
•if LIBOR is discontinued, then the rate of interest applicable to our sources of funding may be determined for a period by applicable fallback provisions, although such provisions, often being dependent in part upon the provision by reference banks of offered quotations for the LIBOR rate, may not operate as intended (depending on market circumstances and the availability of rates information at the relevant time) and may in certain circumstances result in the effective application of a fixed rate based on the rate which applied in the previous period when LIBOR was available.
More generally, any of the above matters or any other significant change to the setting or existence of LIBOR could affect our ability to meet our obligations under our sources of funding and/or could have a material adverse effect on the liquidity of, and the amount payable under, our sources of funding. Changes in the manner of administration of LIBOR could result in adjustments to the conditions applicable to our sources of funding or other consequences relevant to our sources of funding. No assurance can be provided that changes will not be made to LIBOR or any other relevant benchmark rate and/or that such benchmarks will continue to exist.
We rely on network and information systems for our operations and a disruption or failure of, or defects in, those systems may disrupt our operations, damage our reputation with customers and adversely affect our results of operations.
Network and information systems are essential to our ability to conduct our business and deliver our services to our customers. While we have in place multiple security systems designed to protect against intentional or unintentional disruption, failure, misappropriation or corruption of our network and information systems, there can be no assurance that our efforts to protect our network and information systems will prevent any of the problems identified above. A problem of this type might be caused by events such as computer hacking, computer viruses, worms and other destructive or disruptive software, "cyber-attacks," phishing attacks and other malicious activity, defects in the hardware and software comprising our network and information systems, as well as natural disasters, power outages, terrorist attacks and similar events. Such events could have an adverse impact on us and our customers, including degradation of service, service disruption, excessive call volume to call centers, theft and damage to our plant, equipment and data, costs associated with remediation, notification, and potential damages to third parties affected by such malicious activities. Operational or business delays may result from the disruption of network or information systems and the subsequent remediation activities. Moreover, these events may create negative publicity resulting in reputation or brand damage with customers and our results of operations could suffer.
We also use certain vendors to supply some of the hardware, software and support of our network, some of which have been customized or altered to fit our business needs. Certain of these vendors and suppliers may have leverage over us considering that there are limited suppliers of certain products and services, or that there is a long lead time and/or significant expense required to transition to another provider. In addition, some of these vendors and suppliers do not have a long operating history or may not be able to continue to supply the equipment and services we desire. Some of our hardware, software and operational support vendors and some of our service providers represent our sole
source of supply or have, either through contract or as a result of intellectual property rights, a position of some exclusivity. In addition, because of the pace at which technological innovations occur in our industry, we may not be able to obtain access to the latest technology on reasonable terms. Any delays or the termination or disruption in these relationships as a result of contractual disagreements, operational or financial failures on the part of our vendors and suppliers, or other adverse events that prevent such vendors and suppliers from providing the equipment or services we need, with the level of quality we require, in a timely manner and at reasonable prices, could result in significant costs to us and have a negative effect on our ability to provide services and rollout advanced services. Our ability to replace such vendors and suppliers may be limited and, as a result, our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity could be materially adversely affected.
If we experience a significant data security breach or fail to detect and appropriately respond to a significant data security breach, our results of operations and reputation could suffer.
The nature of our business involves the receipt and storage of information about our customers and employees. We have procedures in place to detect and respond to data security incidents. However, because the techniques used to obtain unauthorized access, disable or degrade service, or sabotage systems change frequently and may be difficult to detect for long periods of time, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or implement adequate preventive measures. In addition, hardware, software or applications we develop or procure from third parties may contain defects in design or manufacture or other problems that could unexpectedly compromise information security. We are regularly the target of attempted cyber intrusions and we commit substantial resources to continuously monitor and further develop our network and infrastructure to detect, protect and address the risk of unauthorized access, misuse, computer viruses and other events. Unauthorized parties may also attempt to gain access to our systems or facilities and to our proprietary business information. Our security programs and measures do not prevent all intrusions. Cyber intrusions require a significant amount of time and money to assess and remedy, and our incident response efforts may not be effective in all cases. If our efforts to protect the security of information about our customers and employees are unsuccessful, a significant data security breach may result in costly government enforcement actions, private litigation and negative publicity resulting in reputation or brand damage with customers, and our financial condition and results of operations could suffer. For example, in November 2019, a phishing attack against employee email accounts resulted in the exposure of certain employees' email credentials and, as a result, the exposure of information in those accounts including personal information of current and former employees as well as some customers. We took measures to secure against these attacks and responded by notifying affected persons, relevant state and federal agencies and law enforcement agencies. While the November 2019 attack appears to be contained both from an exposure and cost perspective, we have learned of at least one putative class action having been filed on February 13, 2020, and this and similar attacks could impose costs, liability and reputational harm that could adversely affect our operations and financial results. While we maintain insurance for cyber incidents, due to policy terms, limits and exclusions, it may not apply in all cases, and may not be adequate to cover all liabilities.
A portion of our workforce is represented by labor unions under established collective bargaining agreements or negotiating for a first contract. The terms of existing or new collective bargaining agreements can increase our expenses. Labor disruptions could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
As of December 31, 2020, approximately 600 of the Company’s employees were represented by either the Communications Workers of America ("CWA") or the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("IBEW"). The Company has existing collective bargaining agreements with the CWA and IBEW that cover approximately 600 employees in New York and New Jersey and expire at various times beginning February 12, 2023 through April 25, 2024.
The collective bargaining agreements with the CWA and IBEW covering these groups of employees or any other agreements with other unions may increase the Company’s expenses or affect our ability to implement operational changes. Increased unionization of our workforce and any labor disputes we experience could create disruption or have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
A significant amount of our book value consists of intangible assets that may not generate cash in the event of a voluntary or involuntary sale.
At December 31, 2020, we reported approximately $33.4 billion of consolidated total assets, of which approximately $24.0 billion were intangible. Intangible assets primarily included franchises from city and county governments to operate cable systems, goodwill, customer relationships and trade names. While we believe the carrying values of our intangible assets are recoverable, we may not receive any cash in the event of a voluntary or involuntary sale of these intangible assets, particularly if we were not continuing as an operating business. We urge our stockholders to read
carefully the notes to our consolidated financial statements contained herein, which provide more detailed information about these intangible assets.
We may engage in acquisitions, dispositions and other strategic transactions and the integration of such acquisitions, the sales of assets and other strategic transactions could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business has grown significantly as a result of acquisitions, which entail numerous risks including:
•distraction of our management team in identifying potential acquisition targets, conducting due diligence and negotiating acquisition agreements;
•difficulties in integrating the operations, personnel, products, technologies and systems of acquired businesses;
•difficulties in enhancing our customer support resources to adequately service our existing customers and the customers of acquired businesses;
•the potential loss of key employees or customers of the acquired businesses;
•unanticipated liabilities or contingencies of acquired businesses;
•unbudgeted costs which we may incur in connection with pursuing potential acquisitions which are not consummated;
•failure to achieve projected cost savings or cash flow from acquired businesses, which are based on projections that are inherently uncertain;
•fluctuations in our operating results caused by incurring considerable expenses to acquire and integrate businesses before receiving the anticipated revenues expected to result from the acquisitions; and
•difficulties in obtaining regulatory approvals required to consummate acquisitions, or costs associated with obtaining such approvals in the form of additional expenses or ongoing conditions on the operation of the business.
We also participate in competitive bidding processes, some of which may involve significant cable systems. We also may sell all or portions of the businesses we own, including cable systems or business units. If we engage in acquisitions, dispositions or other strategic transactions in the future, we may incur additional debt, contingent liabilities and amortization expenses, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. We could also issue substantial additional equity which could dilute existing stockholders.
If our acquisitions do not result in the anticipated operating efficiencies, are not effectively integrated, or result in costs which exceed our expectations, or if our dispositions fail to generate adequate consideration, result in contingent liabilities, adversely affect our ability to generate revenue or are disruptive to our other businesses, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Significant unanticipated increases in the use of bandwidth-intensive Internet-based services could increase our costs.
The rising popularity of bandwidth-intensive Internet-based services poses risks for our broadband and wireless services. Examples of such services include peer-to-peer file sharing services, gaming services and the delivery of video via streaming technology and by download. If heavy usage of bandwidth-intensive broadband and wireless services grows beyond our current expectations or capacity, we may need to incur more expenses than currently anticipated to expand the bandwidth capacity of our systems or our customers could have a suboptimal experience when using our broadband or wireless services, which could adversely affect our business, reputation, financial condition and results of operations. In order to provide quality services at attractive prices, we need the continued flexibility to develop and refine business models that respond to changing consumer uses and demands and to manage bandwidth usage efficiently. Our ability to undertake such actions could be restricted by regulatory and legislative efforts to impose so-called "net neutrality" requirements on broadband communication providers like us that provide broadband services. For more information, see "Regulation—Broadband."
Our business depends on intellectual property rights and on not infringing on the intellectual property rights of others.
We rely on our patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets, as well as licenses and other agreements with our vendors and other parties, to use our technologies, conduct our operations and sell our products and services. Our
intellectual property rights may be challenged and invalidated by third parties and may not be strong enough to provide meaningful commercial competitive advantage. Third parties have in the past, and may in the future, assert claims or initiate litigation related to exclusive patent, copyright, trademark and other intellectual property rights to technologies and related standards that are relevant to us. These assertions have increased over time as a result of our growth and the general increase in the pace of patent claims assertions, particularly in the United States. Because of the existence of a large number of patents in the networking field, the secrecy of some pending patents and the rapid rate of issuance of new patents, we believe it is not possible to determine in advance whether a product or any of its components infringes or will infringe on the patent rights of others. Asserted claims and/or initiated litigation can include claims against us or our manufacturers, suppliers or customers, alleging infringement of their proprietary rights with respect to our existing or future products and/or services or components of those products and/or services.
Regardless of the merit of these claims, they can be time-consuming, result in costly litigation and diversion of technical and management personnel, or require us to modify our business, develop a non-infringing technology, be enjoined from use of certain intellectual property, use alternate technology or enter into license and royalty agreements. There can be no assurance that licenses will be available on acceptable terms and conditions, if at all, or that our indemnification by our suppliers will be adequate to cover our costs if a claim were brought directly against us or our customers. Furthermore, because of the potential for high court awards that are not necessarily predictable, it is not unusual to find even arguably unmeritorious claims settled for significant amounts. If any infringement or other intellectual property claim made against us by any third-party is successful, if we are required to indemnify a customer with respect to a claim against the customer, or if we fail to modify our business, develop non-infringing technology, use alternate technology or license the proprietary rights on commercially reasonable terms and conditions, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
We may be liable for the material that content providers distribute over our networks.
The law in most cases limits the liability of private network operators for information carried on, stored on or disseminated through their networks. However, these limitations on liability are subject to certain exceptions and the contours of those exceptions are not fully settled. Among other things, the limitation of copyright liability for network operators with respect to materials transmitted over their networks is conditioned upon the network operators’ terminating the accounts of repeat infringers in certain circumstances, and the law is unsettled as to the circumstances in which such termination is required to maintain the operator’s limitation of liability. As such, we could be exposed to legal claims relating to content disseminated on our networks and/or asserting that we are not eligible for statutory limitations on liability for network operators with respect to such content. Claims could involve matters such as defamation, invasion of privacy or copyright infringement. If we need to take costly measures to reduce our exposure to these risks or are required to defend ourselves against such claims, our business, reputation, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
If we are unable to retain key employees, our ability to manage our business could be adversely affected.
Our operational results have depended, and our future results will depend, upon the retention and continued performance of our management team. The competitive environment for management talent in the broadband communications industry could adversely impact our ability to retain and hire new key employees for management positions. The loss of the services of key members of management and the inability or delay in hiring new key employees could adversely affect our ability to manage our business and our future operational and financial results.
Impairment of Altice Europe's or Mr. Drahi's reputation could adversely affect current and future customers' perception of Altice USA.
Our ability to attract and retain customers depends, in part, upon the external perceptions of Altice USA, which in turn may be affected by Altice Europe's and Mr. Drahi's reputation and the quality of Altice Europe's products and its corporate and management integrity. The broadband communications and video services industry is by its nature more prone to reputational risks than other industries. This has been compounded in recent years by the free flow of unverified information on the Internet and on social media. Impairment of, including any loss of goodwill or reputational advantages, Altice Europe's or Mr. Drahi's reputation in markets in which we do not operate could adversely affect current and future customers', regulators', investors' and others' perception of Altice USA.
Macroeconomic developments may adversely affect our business.
Our performance is subject to global economic conditions and the related impact on consumer spending levels. Continued uncertainty about global economic conditions poses a risk as consumers and businesses may postpone spending in response to tighter credit, unemployment, negative financial news, and/or declines in income or asset
values, which could have a material negative effect on demand for our products and services. As our business depends on consumer discretionary spending, our results of operations are sensitive to changes in macroeconomic conditions. Our customers may have less money for discretionary purchases as a result of job losses, foreclosures, bankruptcies, increased fuel and energy costs, higher interest rates, higher taxes, reduced access to credit, and lower home values. These and other economic factors could adversely affect demand for our products, which in turn could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Online piracy of entertainment and media content could result in reduced revenues and increased expenditures which could materially harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Online entertainment and media content piracy is extensive in many parts of the world and is made easier by technological advances. This trend facilitates the creation, transmission and sharing of high quality unauthorized copies of entertainment and media content. The proliferation of unauthorized copies of this content will likely continue, and if it does, could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations because these products could reduce the demand for and revenue we receive from our products. Additionally, in order to contain this problem, we may have to implement elaborate and costly security and antipiracy measures, which could result in significant expenses and losses of revenue. There can be no assurance that even the highest levels of security and anti-piracy measures will prevent piracy.
Our mobile wireless service will be subject to startup risk, competition, and risks associated with the price and availability of wholesale access to RAN.
In 2019, we launched a mobile wireless voice and data service. We are offering this service using wholesale RAN agreements we have entered into with Sprint and other RAN providers, as well as with our existing WiFi hotspot infrastructure in subscriber homes and at outdoor WiFi hotspots. We believe that our approach to the mobile wireless service offering, including the construction and operation of our own “mobile core” and the ability to bundle and promote the product to our existing customer base, will give us advantages over resellers and incumbent network-based operators alike. We nevertheless face competition from well-established incumbents like Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T. These incumbents have scale advantages over Altice USA and own their spectrum and RAN, affording them significant control over the quality and reach of their own wireless networks, the service quality, speed of improvement and investment, cost, and the handling of subscriber congestion, which our service cannot replicate because it relies in part on incumbent networks that we do not fully control.
Our mobile wireless strategy depends on the availability of wholesale RAN access from one or more network-based providers with whom we are likely to compete. Our mobile service is vulnerable to constraints on the availability of wholesale access or increases in price from the incumbents. We are also dependent on our ability to extend our agreement with Sprint or another wholesale RAN access provider after the initial term of our agreement with Sprint expires.
Consolidation among wholesale RAN access providers could impair our ability to sustain our mobile service. In 2018, Sprint and T-Mobile announced an intent to merge. The merger was approved by the U.S. Justice Department in July 2019, the FCC in November 2019 (which conditioned its approval on fulfillment of certain commitments, including certain conditions intended to benefit the Company) and a federal court in the Southern District of New York in February 2020. According to a joint press release issued by Sprint and T-Mobile on February 11, 2020, although the business combination remains subject to certain closing conditions, including possible additional court proceedings, the companies are taking final steps to complete the merger. While the reduction of competition among mobile wireless network-based providers likely will negatively impact the price and availability of wholesale RAN access to the Company generally, certain of the conditions imposed upon the merger parties by the U.S. Justice Department and the FCC have the potential to ameliorate those effects and to enhance the coverage, quality and cost structure for our mobile services while those conditions are in effect. We rely on the merger parties and the U.S. Justice Department's and FCC’s oversight of those conditions for enforcement. If we fail to obtain timely or fully the benefit of the conditions, or if enforcement is inadequate, the price, reach, quality and competitiveness of our mobile offering likely will be adversely affected.
Risk Factors Relating to Regulatory and Legislative Matters
Our business is subject to extensive governmental legislation and regulation, which could adversely affect our business, increase our operational and administrative expenses and limit our revenues.
Regulation of the cable, telephone, mobile, and broadband industries imposes operational and administrative expenses and limits their revenues. The Company operates in all of these industries and is therefore subject to, among other things:
•rules governing the provisioning and marketing of cable equipment and compatibility with new digital technologies;
•rules governing the manner in which we advertise, market or price our products and services in the marketplace, and how we position those products and services against competing products and services;
•rules and regulations relating to data protection and customer and employee privacy;
•rules establishing limited rate regulation of video service;
•rules governing the copyright royalties that must be paid for retransmitting broadcast signals;
•rules governing when a cable system must carry a particular broadcast station and when it must first obtain retransmission consent to carry a broadcast station;
•rules governing the provision of channel capacity to unaffiliated commercial leased access programmers;
•rules limiting the ability to enter into exclusive agreements with MDUs and control inside wiring;
•rules for cable franchise renewals and transfers;
•other requirements covering a variety of operational areas such as equal employment opportunity, emergency alert systems, disability access, technical standards and customer service and consumer protection requirements;
•rules, regulations and regulatory policies relating to the provision of broadband service, including "net neutrality" requirements;
•rules, regulations and regulatory policies relating to the provision of telephony services; and
•rules, regulations and regulatory policies relating to licensed mobile network operators, wholesale access to mobile networks by resellers or MVNOs, and regulation of the prices, terms, or service provided by mobile operators.
Many aspects of these regulations are currently the subject of judicial proceedings and administrative or legislative proposals. There are also efforts to amend or expand the federal, state and local regulation of some of our cable systems, which may compound the regulatory risks we already face, and proposals that might make it easier for our employees to unionize. The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act prohibits many taxes on Internet access service, but certain states and localities are considering new taxes and fees on our provision of cable, broadband, and telecommunications taxes that could increase operating expenses. Certain states are also considering adopting energy efficiency regulations governing the operation of equipment that we use, which could constrain innovation. Congress periodically considers whether to rewrite the entire Communications Act to account for changes in the communications marketplace or to adopt more focused changes. Congress has in the past considered, and continues to consider, additional regulations on cable providers and ISPs to address specific consumer or customer issues. In response to recent data breaches and increasing concerns regarding the protection of consumers' personal information, Congress, states, and regulatory agencies are considering the adoption of new privacy and data security laws and regulations that could result in additional privacy, as well as network and information security, requirements for our business. These new laws, as well as existing legal and regulatory obligations, could require significant expenditures.
Additionally, there have been statements by federal government officials indicating that some laws and regulations applicable to our industry may be repealed or modified in a way that could be favorable to us and our competitors. There can be no assurance that any such repeal or modification will be beneficial to us or will not be more beneficial to our current and future competitors.
Our cable system franchises are subject to non-renewal or termination. The failure to renew a franchise in one or more key markets could adversely affect our business.
Our cable systems generally operate pursuant to franchises, permits and similar authorizations issued by a state or local governmental authority controlling the public rights-of-way. Some franchises establish comprehensive facilities and service requirements, as well as specific customer service standards and monetary penalties for non-compliance. In many cases, franchises are terminable if the franchisee fails to comply with significant provisions set forth in the franchise agreement governing system operations. Franchises are generally granted for fixed terms and must be periodically renewed. Franchising authorities may resist granting a renewal if either past performance or the prospective operating proposal is considered inadequate. Franchise authorities often demand concessions or other commitments as a condition to renewal. In some instances, local franchises have not been renewed at expiration, and we have operated and are operating under either temporary operating agreements or without a franchise while negotiating renewal terms with the local franchising authorities.
As of December 31, 2020, two of our largest franchises, the Town of Hempstead, New York, comprising an aggregate of approximately 76,000 video customers, and the New York City franchise, comprising of approximately 431,000 video customers were expired. We are currently lawfully operating in both these franchise areas under temporary authority recognized by the State of New York. Lightpath holds a franchise from New York City that expired on December 20, 2008 and the renewal process is pending. We believe New York City is treating the expiration date of this franchise as extended until a formal determination on renewal is made, but there can be no assurance that we will be successful in renewing this franchise on anticipated terms or at all. We expect to renew or continue to operate under all or substantially all of our franchises.
The traditional cable franchising regime has undergone significant change as a result of various federal and state actions. Some state franchising laws do not allow incumbent operators like us to immediately opt into favorable statewide franchising as quickly as new entrants, and often require us to retain certain franchise obligations that are more burdensome than those applied to new entrants.
There can be no assurance that we will be able to comply with all significant provisions of our franchise agreements and certain of our franchisors have from time to time alleged that we have not complied with these agreements. Additionally, although historically we have renewed our franchises without incurring significant costs, there can be no assurance that we will be able to renew, or to renew on terms as favorable, our franchises in the future. A termination of or a sustained failure to renew a franchise in one or more key markets could adversely affect our business in the affected geographic area.
Our cable system franchises are non-exclusive. Accordingly, local and state franchising authorities can grant additional franchises and create competition in market areas where none existed previously, resulting in overbuilds, which could adversely affect our results of operations.
Cable systems are operated under non-exclusive franchises historically granted by local authorities. More than one cable system may legally be built in the same area, which is referred to as an overbuild. It is possible that a franchising authority might grant a second franchise to another cable operator and that such franchise might contain terms and conditions more favorable than those afforded to us. Although entry into the cable industry involves significant cost barriers and risks, well-financed businesses from outside the cable industry, such as online service providers, or public utilities that already possess fiber optic and other transmission lines in the areas they serve, may over time become competitors. In addition, there are a few cities that have constructed their own cable systems, in a manner similar to city-provided utility services, and private cable companies not affiliated with established local exchange carriers have also demonstrated an interest in constructing overbuilds. We believe that for any potential competitor to be successful, such competitor's overbuild would need to be able to serve the homes and businesses in the overbuilt area with equal or better service quality, on a more cost-effective basis than we can.
In some cases, local government entities and municipal utilities may legally compete with us without securing a local franchise or on more favorable franchise terms. In recent years, federal legislative and regulatory proposals have sought to facilitate the ability of municipalities to construct and deploy broadband facilities that could compete with our cable systems. In addition, certain telephone companies have sought or are seeking authority to operate in communities without first obtaining a local franchise. As a result, competing operators may build systems in areas in which we hold franchises. The FCC has adopted rules that streamline entry for new competitors (including those affiliated with telephone companies) and reduce franchising burdens for these new entrants. The FCC subsequently extended more modest relief to incumbent cable operators like the Company, but a recent federal court decision curtailed a portion of this relief that relates to the cap on in-kind payments to franchising authorities. At the same
time, a substantial number of states have adopted franchising laws designed to streamline entry for new competitors, and they often provide advantages for these new entrants that are not immediately available to existing operators.
We believe the markets we serve are not significantly overbuilt. However, the FCC and some state regulatory commissions direct certain subsidies to entities deploying broadband to areas deemed to be "unserved" or "underserved." Many other organizations have applied for and received these funds, including broadband services competitors and new entrants into such services. We have generally opposed such subsidies when directed to areas that we serve and have deployed broadband capable networks. Despite those efforts, we could be placed at a competitive disadvantage if recipients use these funds to subsidize services that compete with our broadband services.
Local franchising authorities have the ability to impose additional regulatory constraints on our business, which could reduce our revenues or increase our expenses.
In addition to the franchise agreement, local franchising authorities in some jurisdictions have adopted cable regulatory ordinances that further regulate the operation of cable systems. This additional regulation increases the cost of operating our business. For example, some local franchising authorities impose minimum customer service standards on our operations. There are no assurances that the local franchising authorities will not impose new and more restrictive requirements.
Further regulation of the cable industry could restrict our marketing options or impair our ability to raise rates to cover our increasing costs.
The cable industry has operated under a federal rate regulation regime for more than three decades. Currently, rate regulation by franchising authorities is strictly limited to the basic service tier and associated equipment and installation activities. A franchising authority that wishes to regulate basic cable service offered by a particular cable system must certify and demonstrate that the cable system is not subject to "effective competition" as defined by federal law. Our franchise authorities have not certified to exercise this limited rate regulation authority. If any of our local franchising authorities obtain certification to regulate rates, they would have the power to reduce rates and order refunds on the rates charged for basic service and equipment, which could reduce our revenues. The FCC and Congress also continue to be concerned that cable rate increases are exceeding inflation. It is possible that either the FCC or Congress will adopt more extensive rate regulation for our video services or regulate our other services, such as broadband and telephony services, which could impede our ability to raise rates, or require rate reductions. To the extent we are unable to raise our rates in response to increasing costs, or are required to reduce our rates, our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity will be materially adversely affected. There has been legislative and regulatory interest in requiring cable operators to offer historically bundled programming services on an à la carte basis. It is possible that new marketing restrictions could be adopted in the future. These restrictions could affect how we provide, and limit, customer equipment used in connection with our services and how we provide access to video programming beyond conventional cable delivery. A number of state and local regulatory authorities have imposed or seek to impose price- or price-related regulation that we believe is inconsistent with FCC direction, and these efforts, if successful, will diminish the benefits of deregulation and hamper our ability to compete with our largely unregulated competitors. We have brought a challenge in federal court against one such attempt to regulate our pricing by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, and in January 2020 we won a preliminary injunction in federal court in the District of New Jersey enjoining that agency from enforcing its regulation.
There also continues to be interest at the FCC and in Congress in proposals that would allow customers to receive cable service without having to rent a set-top box from their cable operator. These proposals could, if adopted, adversely affect our relationship with our customers and programmers and our operations. It is also possible that regulations will be adopted affecting the negotiations between MVPDs (like us) and programmers. While these regulations might provide us with additional rights and protections in our programming negotiations, they might also limit our flexibility in ways that adversely affect our operations.
We may be materially adversely affected by regulatory changes related to pole attachments.
Pole attachments are cable wires that are attached to utility poles. Cable system pole attachments to utility poles historically have been regulated at the federal or state level, generally resulting in favorable pole attachment rates and rights for attachments used to provide cable service. Any changes in the current pole attachment approach could result in a substantial increase in our pole attachment costs.
Changes in channel carriage regulations could impose significant additional costs on us.
Cable operators also face significant regulation affecting the carriage of broadcast and other programming channels. We can be required to devote substantial capacity to the carriage of programming that we might not otherwise carry
voluntarily, including certain local broadcast signals; local public, educational and governmental access programming; and unaffiliated, commercial leased access programming (channel capacity designated for use by programmers unaffiliated with the cable operator). Regulatory changes in this area could disrupt existing programming commitments, interfere with our preferred use of limited channel capacity and limit our ability to offer services that would maximize our revenue potential. It is possible that other legal restraints will be adopted limiting our discretion over programming decisions.
Increasing regulation of our Internet-based products and services could adversely affect our ability to provide new products and services.
On February 26, 2015, the FCC adopted a new "net neutrality" or Open Internet order (the "2015 Order") that: (1) reclassified broadband Internet access service from an information service to a Title II common carrier service, (2) applied certain existing Title II provisions and associated regulations; (3) forbore from applying a range of other existing Title II provisions and associated regulations, but to varying degrees indicated that this forbearance may be only temporary and (4) issued new rules expanding disclosure requirements and prohibiting blocking, throttling, paid prioritization and unreasonable interference with the ability of end users and edge providers to reach each other. The 2015 Order also subjected broadband providers' Internet traffic exchange rates and practices to potential FCC oversight and created a mechanism for third parties to file complaints regarding these matters. The 2015 Order could have had a material adverse impact on our business by limiting our ability to efficiently manage our cable systems and respond to operational and competitive challenges. In December 2017, the FCC adopted an order (the "2017 Order") that in large part reverses the 2015 Order and reestablishes the “information service” classification for broadband services. The 2017 Order was affirmed in part on appeal in October 2019 insofar as it classified broadband Internet access services as information services subject to lesser federal regulation. However, the 2017 Order was also vacated in part on appeal insofar as it preempted states from subjecting broadband Internet access services to any requirements more stringent than the federal requirements. As a result, the precise extent to which state rules may impose such requirements on broadband Internet access service providers is not fully settled. Additionally, Congress and some states are considering legislation that may codify "net neutrality" rules, which could include prohibitions on blocking, throttling and prioritizing Internet traffic. A number of states, including California, have adopted legislation and/or executive orders that apply “net neutrality” rules to ISPs. The California legislation is currently being challenged in court. Additionally, the FCC is expected to revisit the appropriate regulatory classification of broadband in 2021.
Offering telephone services may subject us to additional regulatory burdens, causing us to incur additional costs.
We offer telephone services over our broadband network and continue to develop and deploy interconnected VoIP services. The FCC has ruled that competitive telephone companies that support VoIP services, such as those that we offer to our customers, are entitled to interconnect with incumbent providers of traditional telecommunications services, which ensures that our VoIP services can operate in the market. However, the scope of these interconnection rights is being reviewed in a current FCC proceeding, which may affect our ability to compete in the provision of telephony services or result in additional costs. It remains unclear precisely to what extent federal and state regulators will subject VoIP services to traditional telephone service regulation. Expanding our offering of these services may require us to obtain certain authorizations, including federal and state licenses. We may not be able to obtain such authorizations in a timely manner, or conditions could be imposed upon such licenses or authorizations that may not be favorable to us. The FCC has already extended certain traditional telecommunications requirements, such as E911 capabilities, USF contribution, CALEA, measures to protect Customer Proprietary Network Information, customer privacy, disability access, number porting, battery back-up, network outage reporting, rural call completion reporting and other regulatory requirements to many VoIP providers such as us. If additional telecommunications regulations are applied to our VoIP service, it could cause us to incur additional costs and may otherwise materially adversely impact our operations. In 2011, the FCC released an order significantly changing the rules governing intercarrier compensation for the origination and termination of telephone traffic between interconnected carriers. These rules have resulted in a substantial decrease in interstate compensation payments over a multi-year period. The FCC is currently considering additional reforms that could further reduce interstate compensation payments. Further, although the FCC recently declined to impose additional regulatory burdens on certain point to point transport ("special access") services provided by cable companies, that FCC decision has been appealed by multiple parties. If those appeals are successfully, there could be additional regulatory burdens and additional costs placed on these services.
Our mobile service exposes us to regulatory risk.
In September 2019, we launched Altice Mobile, our mobile service using our own core infrastructure and our iMVNO agreements with Sprint (now T-Mobile USA, Inc.) and other roaming partners, including AT&T. Our iMVNO service is subject to many of the same FCC regulations as traditional mobile service as well as some state and local regulations. The FCC or other regulatory authorities may adopt new or different regulations for iMVNOs or mobile carriers, or impose new fees, that could adversely affect our service or the business opportunity generally.
We may be materially adversely affected by regulatory, legal and economic changes relating to our physical plant.
Our systems depend on physical facilities, including transmission equipment and miles of fiber and coaxial cable. Significant portions of those physical facilities occupy public rights-of-way and are subject to local ordinances and governmental regulations. Other portions occupy private property under express or implied easements, and many miles of the cable are attached to utility poles governed by pole attachment agreements. No assurances can be given that we will be able to maintain and use our facilities in their current locations and at their current costs. Changes in governmental regulations or changes in these relationships could have a material adverse effect on our business and our results of operations.
Risk Factors Relating to Ownership of Our Class A Common Stock and Class B Common Stock
An active, liquid trading market for our Class B common stock has not developed and we cannot assure you that an active, liquid trading market will develop in the future. Holders of shares of our Class B common stock may need to convert them into shares of our Class A common stock to realize their full potential value, which over time could further concentrate voting power with remaining holders of our Class B common stock.
Our Class B common stock is not listed on the New York Stock Exchange ("NYSE") or any other stock exchange and we do not currently intend to list our Class B common stock on the NYSE or any other stock exchange. There is currently no active, liquid trading market for the Class B common stock and we cannot assure you that an active trading market will develop or be sustained at any time in the future. If an active market is not developed or sustained, the price and liquidity of the Class B common stock may be adversely affected. Because the Class B common stock is unlisted, holders of shares of Class B common stock may need to convert them into shares of our Class A common stock, which is listed on the NYSE, in order to realize their full potential value. Sellers of a significant number of shares of Class B common stock may be more likely to convert them into shares of Class A common stock and sell them on the NYSE. This could over time reduce the number of shares of Class B common stock outstanding and potentially further concentrate voting power with remaining holders of Class B common stock.
Our stockholders' percentage ownership in us may be diluted by future issuances of capital stock, which could reduce their influence over matters on which stockholders vote.
Pursuant to our amended and restated certificate of incorporation, our Board of Directors has the authority, without action or vote of our stockholders, to issue all or any part of our authorized but unissued shares of Class A common stock, including shares issuable upon the exercise of options, Class B common stock, Class C common stock or shares of our authorized but unissued preferred stock. We may issue such capital stock to meet a number of our business needs, including funding any potential acquisitions or other strategic transactions. Future issuances of Class A common stock, Class B common stock or voting preferred stock could reduce our stockholders' influence over matters on which our stockholders vote and, in the case of issuances of preferred stock, would likely result in their interest in us being subject to the prior rights of holders of that preferred stock.
Because we have no current plans to pay cash dividends on our Class A common stock or Class B common stock for the foreseeable future, our stockholders may not receive any return on investment unless they sell their Class A common stock or Class B common stock.
We intend to retain future earnings, if any, for future operations, expansion and debt repayment and have no current plans to pay any cash dividends for the foreseeable future. The declaration, amount and payment of any future dividends on shares of Class A common stock and shares of Class B common stock will be at the sole discretion of our Board of Directors. Our Board of Directors may take into account general and economic conditions, our financial condition and results of operations, our available cash and current and anticipated cash needs, capital requirements, contractual, legal, tax and regulatory restrictions and implications on the payment of dividends by us to our stockholders or by our subsidiaries to us and such other factors as our Board of Directors may deem relevant. In addition, our ability to pay dividends is limited by covenants contained in the agreements governing our existing indebtedness and may be limited by covenants contained in any future indebtedness we or our subsidiaries incur. As a result, our stockholders may not receive any return on an investment in our Class A common stock or Class B common stock unless our stockholders sell our Class A common stock or Class B common stock.
Future sales, or the perception of future sales, by us or our existing stockholders in the public market could cause the market price of our Class A common stock to decline.
The sale of substantial amounts of shares of our Class A common stock (including shares of Class A common stock issuable upon conversion of shares of our Class B common stock), or the perception that such sales could occur, could cause the prevailing market price of shares of our Class A common stock to decline. These sales, or the possibility that these sales may occur, also might make it more difficult for us to sell equity securities in the future at a time and at a price that we deem appropriate.
As of December 31, 2020, we had a total of 290.6 million shares of Class A common stock outstanding and 185.9 million shares of Class B common stock outstanding.
Any shares held by our affiliates, as that term is defined under Rule 144 ("Rule 144") of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "Securities Act"), including Next Alt and its affiliates, may be sold only in compliance with certain limitations.
Pursuant to a stockholders and registration rights agreement between the Company and Next Alt, Altice Europe, BC Partners LLP ("BCP") and entities affiliated with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board ("CPPIB" and together with BCP, the "Sponsors"), the other parties thereto have the right, subject to certain conditions, to require us to register the sale of their shares of our Class A common stock, or shares of Class A common stock issuable upon conversion of shares of our Class B common stock, under the Securities Act. By exercising their registration rights and selling a large number of shares, our existing owners could cause the prevailing market price of our Class A common stock to decline. Registration of any of these outstanding shares of capital stock would result in such shares becoming freely tradable without compliance with Rule 144 upon effectiveness of the registration statement, except for shares received by individuals who are our affiliates.
If these stockholders exercise their registration rights and sell shares of common stock, or if the market perceives that they intend to sell such shares, the market price of our Class A common stock could drop significantly. These factors could also make it more difficult for us to raise additional funds through future offerings of our Class A common stock or Class B common stock or other securities. In the future, we may also issue our securities in connection with investments or acquisitions. The number of shares of our Class A common stock, Class B common stock or Class C common stock issued in connection with an investment or acquisition could constitute a material portion of then-outstanding shares of our Class A common stock and Class B common stock. Any issuance of additional securities in connection with investments or acquisitions may result in additional dilution to our stockholders.
In addition, if Next Alt’s lenders foreclose on the shares of Class A and Class B common stock it has pledged in connection with certain transactions, such lenders may have the right to acquire and sell such shares, which could cause the market price of our Class A common stock to drop significantly.
The tri-class structure of Altice USA common stock has the effect of concentrating voting control with Next Alt. This will limit or preclude our stockholders' ability to influence corporate matters, including the election of directors, amendments of our organizational documents and any merger, consolidation, sale of all or substantially all of our assets or other major corporate transaction requiring stockholder approval. Shares of Class B common stock will not automatically convert to shares of Class A common stock upon transfer to a third-party.
Each share of Class B common stock is entitled to twenty-five votes per share and each share of Class A common stock is entitled to one vote per share. If we issue any shares of Class C common stock, they will be non-voting.
Because of the twenty-five-to-one voting ratio between our Class B common stock and Class A common stock, a majority of the combined voting power of our capital stock is controlled by Next Alt. This allows Next Alt to control all matters submitted to our stockholders for approval until such date as Next Alt ceases to own, or to have the right to vote, shares of our capital stock representing a majority of the outstanding votes. This concentrated control will limit or preclude our stockholders' ability to influence corporate matters for the foreseeable future, including the election of directors, amendments of our organizational documents and any merger, consolidation, sale of all or substantially all of our assets or other major corporate transaction requiring stockholder approval. The disparate voting rights of Altice USA common stock may also prevent or discourage unsolicited acquisition proposals or offers for our capital stock that our stockholders may feel are in their best interest as one of our stockholders.
Shares of our Class B common stock are convertible into shares of our Class A common stock at the option of the holder at any time. Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation does not provide for the automatic conversion of shares of Class B common stock upon transfer under any circumstances. The holders of Class B common stock thus will be free to transfer them without converting them into shares of Class A common stock.
Next Alt controls us and its interests may conflict with ours or our stockholders in the future.
As of February 6, 2020, Next Alt and other entities controlled by Patrick Drahi own or have the right to vote approximately 44% of our issued and outstanding Class A and Class B common stock, which represents approximately 92% of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock, in each case inclusive of voting agreements that Next Alt has entered into with certain current and former officers and directors of Altice USA and Altice Europe and its consolidated subsidiaries with respect to all shares of Altice USA common stock they own. So long as Next Alt continues to control a majority of the voting power of our capital stock, Next Alt and, through his control of Next Alt, Mr. Drahi, will be able to significantly influence the composition of our Board of Directors and thereby influence our policies and operations, including the appointment of management, future issuances of Altice USA common stock or other securities, the payment of dividends, if any, on Altice USA common stock, the incurrence or modification of debt by us, amendments to our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws and the entering into extraordinary transactions, and their interests may not in all cases be aligned with our stockholders' interests. In addition, Next Alt may have an interest in pursuing acquisitions, divestitures and other transactions that, in its judgment, could enhance its investment or improve its financial condition, even though such transactions might involve risks to our stockholders. For example, Next Alt could cause us to make acquisitions that increase our indebtedness or cause us to sell revenue-generating assets.
In addition, Next Alt is able to determine the outcome of all matters requiring stockholder approval and is able to cause or prevent a change of control of the Company or a change in the composition of our Board of Directors and could preclude any unsolicited acquisition of the Company. The concentration of ownership could deprive our stockholders of an opportunity to receive a premium for their shares of our Class A common stock or Class B common stock as part of a sale of the Company and ultimately might affect the market price of our Class A common stock.
If conflicts arise between us and Next Alt, these conflicts could be resolved in a manner that is unfavorable to us and as a result, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected. In addition, if Next Alt ceases to control us, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.
Anti-takeover provisions in our organizational documents could delay or prevent a change of control transaction.
Certain provisions of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws may have an anti-takeover effect and may delay, defer or prevent a merger, acquisition, tender offer, takeover attempt or other change of control transaction that a stockholder might consider in its best interest, including those attempts that might result in a premium over the market price for the shares held by our stockholders.
These provisions provide for, among other things:
•a tri-class common stock structure, as a result of which Next Alt generally will be able to control the outcome of all matters requiring stockholder approval, including the election of directors and significant corporate transactions, such as a merger or other sale of our company or its assets;
•the ability of our Board of Directors to, without further action by our stockholders, fix the rights, preferences, privileges and restrictions of up to an aggregate of 100,000,000 shares of preferred stock in one or more series and authorize their issuance; and
•the ability of stockholders holding a majority of the voting power of our capital stock to call a special meeting of stockholders.
These anti-takeover provisions could make it more difficult for a third-party to acquire us, even if the third-party's offer may be considered beneficial by many of our stockholders. As a result, our stockholders may be limited in their ability to obtain a premium for their shares of our Class A common stock. In addition, so long as Next Alt controls a majority of our combined voting power it will be able to prevent a change of control of the Company.
Holders of a single class of Altice USA common stock may not have any remedies if an action by our directors has an adverse effect on only that class of Altice USA common stock.
Under Delaware law, the board of directors has a duty to act with due care and in the best interests of all of our stockholders, including the holders of all classes of Altice USA common stock. Principles of Delaware law established in cases involving differing treatment of multiple classes of stock provide that a board of directors owes an equal duty to all common stockholders regardless of class and does not have separate or additional duties to any group of stockholders. As a result, in some circumstances, our Board of Directors may be required to make a decision
that could be viewed as adverse to the holders of one class of Altice USA common stock. Under the principles of Delaware law and the business judgment rule, holders may not be able to successfully challenge decisions that they believe have a disparate impact upon the holders of one class of our stock if our Board of Directors is disinterested and independent with respect to the action taken, is adequately informed with respect to the action taken and acts in good faith and in the honest belief that the board is acting in the best interest of all of our stockholders.
We are a "controlled company" within the meaning of the rules of the NYSE. As a result, we qualify for, and rely on, exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements that would otherwise provide protection to stockholders of other companies.
Next Alt controls a majority of the voting power of our capital stock. As a result, we are a "controlled company" within the meaning of the corporate governance standards of the NYSE. Under these rules, a company of which more than 50% of the voting power is held by an individual, group or another company is a "controlled company" and may elect not to comply with certain corporate governance requirements, including:
•the requirement that a majority of our Board of Directors consists of "independent directors" as defined under the rules of the NYSE; and
•the requirement that we have a governance and nominating committee.
Consistent with these exemptions, we will continue not to have a majority of independent directors on our Board of Directors or a nominating and governance committee. Accordingly, our stockholders will not have the same protections afforded to stockholders of companies that are subject to all of the corporate governance requirements of the NYSE.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, if they adversely change their recommendations regarding our Class A common stock, or if our operating results do not meet their expectations, the market price of our Class A common stock could decline.
The trading market for our Class A common stock will be influenced by the research and reports that industry or securities analysts publish about us or our business. We do not have any control over these analysts. If one or more of these analysts cease coverage of our company or fail to publish reports on us regularly, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which in turn could cause our stock price or trading volume to decline. Moreover, if one or more of the analysts who cover our company downgrades our Class A common stock, or if our operating results do not meet their expectations, the market price of our Class A common stock could decline.
We are subject to securities class action litigation related to our 2017 initial public offering and we may be subject to additional securities class action litigation in the future.
We are subject to securities class action litigation related to our 2017 initial public offering (“IPO Litigation”) and we may be subject to additional securities class action litigation in the future. In the past, securities class action litigation has often been instituted against companies whose securities have experienced periods of volatility in market price. Securities litigation brought against us following volatility in the price of our Class A common stock, regardless of the merit or ultimate results of such litigation, could result in substantial costs, which would hurt our financial condition and results of operations and divert management's attention and resources from our business. While we believe the IPO Litigation is without merit, there can be no assurance that the outcome will not materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our amended and restated bylaws provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware is the exclusive forum for substantially all disputes between us and our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders' ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers or other stockholders.
Our amended and restated bylaws provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware (or, if the Court of Chancery does not have jurisdiction, another state or federal court located in the State of Delaware) is the exclusive forum for: (i) any derivative action or proceeding brought in our name or on our behalf; (ii) any action asserting a breach of fiduciary duty; (iii) any action asserting a claim against us arising under the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware ("DGCL"); (iv) any action regarding our amended and restated certificate of incorporation or our amended and restated bylaws; or (v) any action asserting a claim against us that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine. Our amended and restated bylaws permit our Board of Directors to approve the selection of an alternative forum. Unless waived, this exclusive forum provision may limit a stockholder's ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that it finds favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers or other stockholders, which may discourage such lawsuits against us and our directors, officers and other stockholders. Alternatively, if a court were to
find this provision in our amended and restated bylaws to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
Item 2. Properties
Our headquarters are located in Long Island City, New York, where we currently lease office space pursuant to a lease agreement which will expire in 2032. We also own a building located in Bethpage, New York, where we maintain administrative offices. In addition, we own or lease real estate throughout our operating areas where certain of our call centers, corporate facilities, business offices, earth stations, transponders, microwave towers, warehouses, headend equipment, hub sites, access studios, and microwave receiving antennae are located.
Our principal physical assets consist of cable operating plant and equipment, including signal receiving, encoding and decoding devices, headend facilities, fiber optic transport networks, coaxial and distribution systems and equipment at or near customers' homes or places of business for each of the systems. The signal receiving apparatus typically includes a tower, antenna, ancillary electronic equipment and earth stations for reception of satellite signals. Headend facilities are located near the receiving devices. Our distribution system consists primarily of coaxial and fiber optic cables and related electronic equipment. Customer premise equipment consists of set-top devices, cable modems, Internet routers, wireless devices and media terminal adapters for telephone. Our cable plant and related equipment generally are attached to utility poles under pole rental agreements with local public utilities; although in some areas the distribution cable is buried in underground ducts or directly in trenches. The physical components of the cable systems require maintenance and periodic upgrading to improve system performance and capacity. In addition, we operate a network operations center that monitors our network 24 hours a day, seven days a week, helping to ensure a high quality of service and reliability for both our residential and commercial customers. We own most of our service vehicles.
We believe our properties, both owned and leased, are in good condition and are suitable and adequate for our operations.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings
Refer to Note 17 to our consolidated financial statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for a discussion of our legal proceedings.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures
Item 5. Market for the Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Altice USA Class A common stock is listed for trading on the NYSE under the symbol "ATUS." Altice USA Class B common stock is not listed for trading on any stock exchange.
As of February 5, 2021, there were four holders of record of Altice USA Class A common stock and two holders of record of ATUS Class B common stock.
Stockholder Dividends and Distributions
The Company may pay dividends on its capital stock only from net profits and surplus as determined under Delaware law. If dividends are paid on the Altice USA common stock, holders of the Altice USA Class A common stock and Altice USA Class B common stock are entitled to receive dividends, and other distributions in cash, stock or property, equally on a per share basis, except that, subject to certain exceptions, stock dividends with respect to Altice USA Class A common stock may be paid only with shares of Altice USA Class A common stock and stock dividends with respect to Altice USA Class B common stock may be paid only with shares of Altice USA Class B common stock.
The Company's indentures restrict the amount of dividends and distributions in respect of any equity interest that can be made.
Equity Compensation Plan Information
The Equity Compensation Plan information under which the Company's equity securities are authorized for issuance required under Item 5 is hereby incorporated by reference from the Company's definitive proxy statement for its Annual Meeting of Stockholders or, if such definitive proxy statement is not filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission prior to 120 days after the close of its fiscal year, an amendment to this Annual Report on Form 10-K filed under cover of Form 10-K/A.
Unregistered Sales of Equity Securities and Use of Proceeds
(c) Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer
Set forth below is information related to transactions under the Company's share repurchase program for the quarter ended December 31, 2020.
Total Number of Shares (or Units) Purchased
Average Price Paid per Share (or Unit)
Total Number of Shares (or Units) Purchased as Part of Publicly Announced Plans or Programs (1)(2)
Maximum Number (or Approximate Dollar Value) of Shares (or Units) that May Yet Be Purchased Under the Plans or Programs (1)
|October 1- October 31||6,201,273 ||$||27.32 ||180,824,027 ||$||2,813,640,302 |
|November 1- November 30||16,476,539 ||29.77 ||197,300,566 ||4,323,179,352 |
|December 1 - December 31||64,613,479 ||36.01 ||261,914,045 ||1,996,230,356 |
(1)On June 8, 2018, the Company's Board of Directors authorized the repurchase of up to $2.0 billion of Altice USA Class A common stock. On July 30, 2019, the Board of Directors authorized a new incremental three-year share repurchase program of $5.0 billion, to take effect following the completion of the June 2018 repurchase program. Under these repurchase programs, shares of Altice USA Class A common stock may be purchased from time to time in the open market and may include trading plans entered into with one or more brokerage firms in accordance with Rule 10b5-1 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The programs do not have an expiration date and may be suspended at any time at the discretion of the Board of Directors. In November 2020, the Company's Board of Directors authorized the repurchase of up to an additional $2.0 billion of Altice USA Class A common stock pursuant to the Tender Offer discussed below.
(2)This column reflects the cumulative number of shares acquired pursuant to the repurchase program at the end of the respective period.
On November 23, 2020, the Company commenced a modified "Dutch auction" tender offer (the "Tender Offer") to purchase up to $2.5 billion in value of shares of its Class A Common Stock, at a price not greater than $36.00 per share nor less than $32.25 per share. The Tender Offer expired on December 21, 2020. On December 21, 2020, the Company accepted for purchase 64,613,479 shares of its Class A Common Stock, at a price of $36.00 per share, plus related fees, for an aggregate purchase price of $2.3 billion. The aggregate purchase price of these shares (including the fees relating to the Tender Offer), is reflected in stockholders' equity (deficiency) in the consolidated balance sheet as of December 31, 2020.
Altice USA Stock Performance Graph
The chart below compares the performance of our Class A common stock with the performance of the S&P 500 Index and a Peer Group Index by measuring the changes in our Class A common stock prices from June 22, 2017 through December 31, 2020. As required by the SEC, the values shown assume the reinvestment of all dividends. Because no published index of comparable media companies currently reports values on a dividends-reinvested basis, the Company has created a Peer Group Index for purposes of this graph in accordance with the requirements of the SEC. The Peer Group Index is made up of companies that deliver broadband, video and telephony services as a significant element of their business, although not all of the companies included in the Peer Group Index participate in all of the lines of business in which we are engaged and some of the companies included in the Peer Group Index also engage in lines of business in which we do not participate. Additionally, the market capitalizations of many of the companies included in the Peer Group are quite different from ours. The common stocks of the following companies have been included in the Peer Group Index: AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Frontier, DISH, Sprint (through April 2020), T-Mobile, Verizon, and Windstream Holdings, Inc. (through March 2019). The chart assumes $100 was invested on June 22, 2017 in each of the Company's Class A common stock, the S&P 500 Index and in a Peer Group Index and reflects reinvestment of dividends and market capitalization weighting.
|June 22, 2017||Dec 31, 2017||Dec. 31, 2018||Dec. 31, 2019||Dec. 31, 2020|
ALTICE USA CLASS A
|$||100.00 ||$||64.90 ||$||56.30 ||$||93.17 ||$||129.06 |
|S&P 500 INDEX||$||100.00 ||$||109.82 ||$||102.97 ||$||132.71 ||$||154.29 |
PEER GROUP INDEX
|$||100.00 ||$||104.17 ||$||94.78 ||$||124.33 ||$||135.44 |
Item 6. Selected Historical Financial Data
The summary consolidated historical balance sheets and operating data of Altice USA as of December 31, 2020 and 2019 and for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017 presented below have been derived from the audited consolidated financial statements of Altice USA included elsewhere herein. The operating data of Altice USA for the year ended December 31, 2016 include the operating results of Cequel for the year ended December 31, 2016 and the operating results of Cablevision for the period from the date of acquisition, June 21, 2016, through December 31, 2016. The balance sheet and operating data presented below also give effect to the ATS acquisition since its formation, the i24 acquisition from April 1, 2018, the Cheddar acquisition from June 1, 2019 and the acquisition of certain cable assets in New Jersey from July 2020.
The selected historical results presented below are not necessarily indicative of the results to be expected for any future period. This information should be read in conjunction with the audited consolidated financial statements of Altice USA and the notes thereto, and Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
| ||Altice USA||Cablevision (a)|
|Years ended December 31,||January 1, 2016 to June 20, 2016|
|(in thousands)|| |
|$||9,894,642 ||$||9,760,859 ||$||9,566,608 ||$||9,306,950 ||$||6,017,212 ||$||3,137,604 |
|7,779,353 ||7,937,048 ||7,884,229 ||8,465,942 ||5,554,403 ||2,658,667 |
|2,115,289 ||1,823,811 ||1,682,379 ||841,008 ||462,809 ||478,937 |
Other income (expense):
| || |
Interest expense, net
Gain (loss) on investments and sale of affiliate interests, net
|320,061 ||473,406 ||(250,877)||237,354 ||142,102 ||129,990 |
Gain (loss) on derivative contracts, net
Gain (loss) on interest rate swap contracts
|(78,606)||(53,902)||(61,697)||5,482 ||(72,961)||— |
Loss on extinguishment of debt and write-off of deferred financing costs
Other income (expense), net
|5,577 ||1,183 ||(12,484)||(13,651)||980 ||1,224 |
|Income (loss) before income taxes||583,227 ||187,129 ||(18,061)||(1,367,588)||(1,091,145)||288,360 |
|Income tax benefit (expense) (b)||(139,748)||(47,190)||38,655 ||2,862,352 ||259,666 ||(124,848)|
Net income (loss)
|443,479 ||139,939 ||20,594 ||1,494,764 ||(831,479)||163,512 |
Net loss (income) attributable to noncontrolling interests
|Net income (loss) attributable to Altice USA / Cablevision stockholders||$||436,183 ||$||138,936 ||$||18,833 ||$||1,493,177 ||$||(832,030)||$||163,748 |
|INCOME (LOSS) PER SHARE:|
|Basic income (loss) per share||$||0.75 ||$||0.21 ||$||0.03 ||$||2.15 ||$||(1.28)||$||0.60 |
|Basic weighted average common shares (in thousands)||581,057 ||660,384 ||730,088 ||696,055 ||649,525 ||272,035 |
|Diluted income (loss) per share||$||0.75 ||$||0.21 ||$||0.03 ||$||2.15 ||$||(1.28)||$||0.58 |
|Diluted weighted average common shares (in thousands)||583,689 ||662,541 ||730,088 ||696,055 ||649,525 ||280,199 |
|Cash dividends declared per common share (c)||$||— ||$||— ||$||2.035 ||$||1.29 ||$||0.69 ||$||— |
(a)Represents the operating results of Cablevision for the period prior to the Cablevision Acquisition (Predecessor period).
(b)Pursuant to the enactment of the Tax Reform on December 22, 2017, the Company recorded a non-cash deferred tax benefit of $2,332,677 in 2017 to remeasure the net deferred tax liability to adjust for the reduction in the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21% which was effective on January 1, 2018. In 2018, the Company recorded a non-cash deferred tax benefit of $52,915 based on a remeasurement of the Company's net deferred tax liability.
(c)The 2017 and 2016 amounts represent distributions declared prior to the Company's IPO of $839,700 and $445,176, respectively, divided by the number of shares of common stock outstanding adjusted to reflect the retroactive impact of the organizational transactions that occurred prior to the IPO.
|Balance Sheet Data:|
| ||Altice USA|
| ||December 31,|
|(dollars in thousands)|
|Total assets||$||33,376,660 ||$||34,108,122 ||$||33,613,808 ||$||34,812,082 ||$||36,498,578 |
|Notes payable to affiliates and related parties||— ||— ||— ||— ||1,750,000 |
|Credit facility debt||8,288,000 ||7,148,287 ||5,915,559 ||4,643,523 ||3,444,790 |
|Collateralized indebtedness||1,617,506 ||1,585,088 ||1,406,182 ||1,349,474 ||1,286,069 |
|Senior guaranteed notes, senior secured notes and senior notes and debentures||16,482,398 ||15,476,496 ||15,359,561 ||15,860,432 ||17,507,325 |
|Notes payable and other obligations||174,801 ||140,994 ||106,108 ||65,902 ||13,726 |
|Finance lease obligations||159,637 ||69,420 ||25,190 ||21,980 ||28,155 |
|Total debt||26,722,342 ||24,420,285 ||22,812,600 ||21,941,311 ||24,030,065 |
|Redeemable equity||25,763 ||108,551 ||130,007 ||231,290 ||68,147 |
|Stockholders' equity (deficiency)||(1,141,030)||2,269,964 ||3,670,941 ||5,503,214 ||2,042,221 |
|Noncontrolling interests||(62,109)||9,298 ||9,295 ||1,539 ||287 |
|Total equity (deficiency)||(1,203,139)||2,279,262 ||3,680,236 ||5,504,753 ||2,042,508 |
The following table sets forth certain customer metrics for the Company (unaudited):
|2020 (f)(g)||2019 (f)||2018|
| ||(in thousands, except per customer amounts)|
|Homes passed (a)||9,034.1 ||8,818.6 ||8,699.6 |
|Total customers relationships (b)(c)||5,024.6 ||4,916.3 ||4,899.5 |
|Residential||4,648.4 ||4,533.3 ||4,518.1 |
|SMB||376.1 ||383.1 ||381.4 |
|Broadband||4,359.2 ||4,187.3 ||4,115.4 |
|Video||2,961.0 ||3,179.2 ||3,286.1 |