Revenues for seven large U.S. cable operators have risen at an annual growth rate of 7.3 percent, from $53.57 billion in 2006 to $70.95 billion in 2010, and operating cash flow has risen 8.3 percent annually, from $20.19 billion in 2006 to $27.78 billion in 2010, SNL Kagan reports.

Margins have held steady in the upper 30 percent range, but the pressure has increased due to rising programming expenses, including both cable network and retransmission costs.

The programming expense growth has been somewhat offset by cash flows from the high-margin advanced services segments and from advertising revenues. In addition, 2010 marks the first time all of the large cable companies in the index were free cash flow positive.

Not bad for a business that does not sell itself as a “growth” opportunity, or a dividend play.

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