Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)

Summary of Significant Accounting Policies

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Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2017
Accounting Policies [Abstract]  
Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
 
Consolidation Principles
 
The consolidated financial statements include the accounts of the Company and its majority owned subsidiaries over which the Company exercises control. All intercompany accounts and transactions have been eliminated in consolidation.
 
Cash and Cash Equivalents
 
The Company considers investments with original purchased maturities of three months or less when acquired to be cash equivalents.
 
Trade Receivables
 
Trade receivables consist primarily of amounts due from subscribers for recurring monthly monitoring services over a wide geographical base.  The Company performs extensive credit evaluations on the portfolios of subscriber accounts prior to acquisition and requires no collateral on the accounts that are acquired.  The Company has established an allowance for doubtful accounts for estimated losses resulting from the inability of subscribers to make required payments.  Factors such as historical-loss experience, recoveries and economic conditions are considered in determining the sufficiency of the allowance to cover potential losses.  The allowance for doubtful accounts as of December 31, 2017 and 2016 was $4,162,000 and $3,043,000, respectively.

A summary of activity in the allowance for doubtful accounts is as follows (amounts in thousands):
 
Balance
Beginning
 of Year
 
Charged
 to Expense
 
Write-Offs
and Other
 
Balance
 End of
 Year
2017
$
3,043

 
11,014

 
(9,895
)
 
4,162

2016
$
2,762

 
10,785

 
(10,504
)
 
3,043

2015
$
2,120

 
9,735

 
(9,093
)
 
2,762


 
Concentration of Credit Risk
 
Financial instruments that potentially subject the Company to significant concentrations of credit risk consist principally of trade accounts receivable.  The Company performs extensive credit evaluations on the portfolios of subscriber accounts prior to acquisition and requires no collateral on the subscriber accounts that are acquired.  Concentrations of credit risk with respect to trade accounts receivable are generally limited due to the large number of subscribers comprising the Company's customer base.
 
Fair Value of Financial Instruments
 
Fair values of cash equivalents, current accounts receivable and current accounts payable approximate the carrying amounts because of their short-term nature. The Company's debt instruments are recorded at amortized cost on the consolidated balance sheet.  See note 9, Fair Value Measurements, for further fair value information on the Company's debt instruments.

Inventories

Inventories consist of security system components and parts and are stated at the lower of cost (using the weighted average costing method) or net realizable value. Inventory is included in Prepaid and other current assets on the consolidated balance sheets and was $3,495,000 and $2,475,000 at December 31, 2017 and 2016, respectively.
 
Property and Equipment
 
Property and equipment are carried at cost and depreciated using the straight-line method over the estimated useful lives of the assets. Leasehold improvements are amortized over the shorter of their estimated useful lives or the term of the underlying lease. Estimated useful lives by class of asset are as follows:
Leasehold improvements
 
15 years or lease term, if shorter
Machinery and equipment
 
5 - 7 years
Computer systems and software (included in Machinery and Equipment in note 4, Property and Equipment)
 
3 - 5 years

 
Management reviews the realizability of its property and equipment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of an asset may not be recoverable. In evaluating the value and future benefits of long-term assets, their carrying value is compared to management’s best estimate of undiscounted future cash flows over the remaining economic life. If such assets are considered to be impaired, the impairment to be recognized is measured by the amount by which the carrying value of the assets exceeds the estimated fair value of the assets.  If necessary, the Company would use both the income approach and market approach to estimate fair value.

Subscriber Accounts
 
Subscriber accounts primarily relate to the cost of acquiring monitoring service contracts from independent dealers.  The subscriber accounts acquired in the MONI, Security Networks and the LiveWatch acquisitions were recorded at fair value under the acquisition method of accounting.  All other acquired subscriber accounts are recorded at cost.  All direct and incremental costs, including bonus incentives related to account activation at LiveWatch, associated with the creation of subscriber accounts, including new subscriber contracts obtained in connection with a subscriber move, are capitalized.
 
The costs of subscriber accounts acquired in the MONI, Security Networks and LiveWatch acquisitions as well as certain accounts acquired in bulk purchases, are amortized using the 14-year 235% declining balance method.  The costs of all other subscriber accounts are amortized using the 15-year 220% declining balance method, beginning in the month following the date of acquisition.  The amortization methods were selected to provide an approximate matching of the amortization of the subscriber accounts intangible asset to estimated future subscriber revenues based on the projected lives of individual subscriber contracts.  Amortization of subscriber accounts was $226,697,000, $236,673,000 and $238,800,000 for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2017, 2016 and 2015, respectively.

Based on subscriber accounts held at December 31, 2017, estimated amortization of subscriber accounts in the succeeding five fiscal years ending December 31 is as follows (amounts in thousands):
2018
$
201,427

2019
$
170,250

2020
$
149,189

2021
$
132,662

2022
$
121,209


 
The Company has processes and controls in place, including the review of key performance indicators, to assist management in identifying events or circumstances that indicate the Subscriber Accounts Asset may not be recoverable. If an indicator that the asset may not be recoverable exists, management tests the Subscriber Accounts Asset for impairment. For purposes of recognition and measurement of an impairment loss, the Company views subscriber accounts as a single pool, for each of MONI and LiveWatch, because of the assets' homogeneous characteristics, and the pool of subscriber accounts is the lowest level for which identifiable cash flows are largely independent of the cash flows of the other assets and liabilities. If such assets are considered to be impaired, the impairment loss to be recognized is measured as the amount by which the carrying value of the assets exceeds the estimated fair value, as determined using the income approach.
 
Dealer Network and Other Intangible Assets
 
Dealer network is an intangible asset that relates to the dealer relationships that were acquired as part of the Security Networks Acquisition.  Other intangible assets consist of non-compete agreements signed by the seller of Security Networks and certain key Security Networks executives.  These intangible assets are amortized on a straight-line basis over their estimated useful lives of 5 years. The LiveWatch trade mark asset is amortized over 10 years. Amortization of dealer network and other intangible assets was $9,830,000, $9,830,000 and $19,501,000 for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2017, 2016 and 2015, respectively.
 
The Company reviews the dealer network and other intangible assets for impairment or a change in amortization method at each reporting period.
 
Goodwill
 
The Company accounts for its goodwill pursuant to the provisions of Financial Accounting Standards Board ("FASB") Accounting Standards Codification ("ASC") Topic 350, Intangibles-Goodwill and Other ("FASB ASC Topic 350").  In accordance with FASB ASC Topic 350, goodwill is not amortized, but rather tested for impairment at least annually, or earlier if an event occurs, or circumstances change, that indicate the fair value of a reporting unit may be below its carrying amount.
 
The Company assesses the recoverability of the carrying value of goodwill during the fourth quarter of its fiscal year, based on October 31 financial information, or whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of the goodwill of a reporting unit may not be fully recoverable. The Company's reporting units are the MONI and LiveWatch business segments and recoverability is measured at the reporting unit level based on the provisions of FASB ASC Topic 350.
 
To the extent necessary, recoverability of goodwill at a reporting unit level is measured using a discounted cash flow model incorporating discount rates commensurate with the risks involved, which is classified as a Level 3 measurement under FASB ASC Topic 820, Fair Value Measurements and Disclosures. The key assumptions used in the discounted cash flow valuation model include discount rates, growth rates, cash flow projections and terminal value rates. Discount rates, growth rates and cash flow projections are the most sensitive and susceptible to change as they require significant management judgment. If the calculated fair value is less than the current carrying value, impairment of the reporting unit may exist. When the recoverability test indicates potential impairment, the Company will calculate an implied fair value of goodwill for the reporting unit. The implied fair value of goodwill is determined in a manner similar to how goodwill is calculated in a business combination. If the implied fair value of goodwill exceeds the carrying value of goodwill assigned to the reporting unit, there is no impairment. If the carrying value of goodwill assigned to a reporting unit exceeds the implied fair value of the goodwill, an impairment loss is recorded to write down the carrying value. An impairment loss cannot exceed the carrying value of goodwill assigned to the reporting unit but may indicate certain long-lived and amortizable intangible assets associated with the reporting unit may require additional impairment testing.
 
Deferred Financing Costs
 
Deferred financing costs are recorded as a reduction to long-term debt when the related debt is issued or when revolving credit lines increase the borrowing capacity of the Company.  Deferred financing costs are amortized over the term of the related debt using the effective interest method.

Holdback Liability
 
The Company typically withholds payment of a designated percentage of the acquisition cost when it acquires subscriber accounts from dealers.  The withheld funds are recorded as a liability until the guarantee period provided by the dealer has expired.  The holdback is used as a reserve to cover any terminated subscriber accounts that are not replaced by the dealer during the guarantee period.  At the end of the guarantee period, the dealer is responsible for any deficit or is paid the balance of the holdback.

Derivative Financial Instruments

The Company uses derivative financial instruments to manage exposure to movement in interest rates. The use of these financial instruments modifies the exposure of these risks with the intention of reducing the risk or cost. The Company does not use derivatives for speculative or trading purposes. The Company recognizes the fair value of all derivative instruments as either assets or liabilities at fair value on the consolidated balance sheets. Fair value is based on market quotes for similar instruments with the same duration. For derivative instruments that qualify for hedge accounting under the provisions of FASB ASC Topic 815, Derivatives and Hedging, unrealized gains and losses on the derivative instruments are reported in Accumulated other comprehensive income (loss), to the extent the hedges are effective, until the underlying transactions are recognized in earnings.  Derivative instruments that do not qualify for hedge accounting are marked to market at the end of each accounting period with the change in fair value recorded in earnings.
 
Revenue Recognition
 
Revenue is generated from security alarm monitoring and related services provided by the Company and its subsidiaries.  Revenue related to alarm monitoring services is recognized ratably over the life of the contract.  Revenue related to maintenance and other services is recognized as the services are rendered.  Deferred revenue includes payments for monitoring services to be provided in future periods. Additionally, equipment sales are recognized as the equipment is shipped to the customer.
 
Income Taxes
 
The Company accounts for income taxes under FASB ASC Topic 740, Income Taxes ("FASB ASC Topic 740"), which prescribes an asset and liability approach that requires the recognition of deferred tax assets and liabilities for the expected future tax consequences of events that have been recognized in the Company's consolidated financial statements or tax returns. In estimating future tax consequences, the Company generally considers all expected future events other than proposed changes in the tax law or rates. Valuation allowances are established when necessary to reduce deferred tax assets to the amount expected to be realized.  Income tax expense is the tax payable or refundable for the period plus or minus the change during the period in deferred tax assets and liabilities.
 
FASB ASC Topic 740 specifies the accounting for uncertainty in income taxes recognized in a company's financial statements and prescribes a recognition threshold and measurement attribute for the financial statement recognition and measurement of a tax position taken or expected to be taken in a tax return.  In instances where the Company has taken or expects to take a tax position in its tax return and the Company believes it is more likely than not that such tax position will be upheld by the relevant taxing authority, the Company records the benefits of such tax position in its consolidated financial statements.
 
Share-Based Compensation
 
The Company accounts for share-based awards pursuant to FASB ASC Topic 718, Compensation-Stock Compensation ("FASB ASC Topic 718"), which requires companies to measure the cost of employee services received in exchange for an award of equity instruments (such as stock options and restricted stock) based on the grant-date fair value of the award, and to recognize that cost over the period during which the employee is required to provide service (usually the vesting period of the award). Forfeitures of awards are recognized as they occur.
 
The grant-date fair value of the Ascent Capital stock options granted to the Company’s employees was calculated using the Black-Scholes model. The expected term of the awards was calculated using the simplified method included in FASB ASC Topic 718. The volatility used in the calculation is based on the historical volatility of Ascent Capital and peer companies while the risk-free rate is based on Treasury Bonds with a term similar to that of the subject options.  A dividend rate of zero was utilized for all granted stock options.

Estimates
 
The preparation of financial statements in conformity with U.S. GAAP requires management to make estimates, assumptions and judgments that affect the reported amounts of revenue and expenses for each reporting period.  The significant estimates made in preparation of the Company's consolidated financial statements primarily relate to valuation of goodwill, other intangible assets, long-lived assets, deferred tax assets, convertible debt arrangements, derivative financial instruments, and the allowance for doubtful accounts. These estimates are based on management's best estimates and judgment. Management evaluates its estimates and assumptions on an ongoing basis using historical experience and other factors and adjusts them when facts and circumstances change. As the effects of future events cannot be determined with any certainty, actual results could differ from the estimates upon which the carrying values were based.