UPDATE, 6:48 AM: Two interesting disclosures, both from NBCU chief Steve Burke, during Comcast’s quarterly call with analysts this morning. He says, without detail, that the company’s thinking about “taking some of our existing sports on other channels and putting them on USA.” Also, in response to questions, he says that he was surprised — but not especially concerned — by HBO and CBS’ announcements last week about their streaming plans. “I don’t think distributing directly to consumers via the Internet is an easy thing to do.” He disagrees with commentators who say the initiatives could promote a la carte pay TV offerings. “Both HBO and CBS are trying to add to their existing ecosystem,” not change it. But it will be especially challenging for HBO to do so without cannibalizing some of its “very high margin” cable customers. “It will be interesting to see how that works.” More below in our live blog of the earnings call.
PREVIOUS, 4:12 AM: There are a lot of moving parts in Comcast’s Q3 results, including a $724M favorable tax adjustment. But the basic numbers for the cable giant look pretty good at first glance. The company reported net income of $2.6B, up 48.1% versus the period last year, on revenues of $16.8B, +4%. The top line figure was right about where analysts expected it to be. And without the tax adjustment, earnings came in at 73 cents a share, ahead of forecasts for 71 cents.
“We continue to focus on innovation and providing the best experience for our customers, and we are thrilled with the response to our superior X1 platform, which recently reached 5 million boxes deployed,” CEO Brian Roberts says. “At NBC Universal, we had another outstanding quarter with double-digit operating cash flow growth, driven by ratings momentum at NBC Broadcast and the successful opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley in Orlando.”
At NBCU, cable network revenues increased 0.7% to $2.26B with operating cash flow up 1.8% to $868M, as a 5.1% increase in distribution revenues offset a 4.6% drop in ad sales due to declining ratings. The Broadcast Television unit fared better as NBC’s higher ratings and retransmission consent fees boosted revenues 7.7% to $1.77B and operating cash flow to $142M from $34M last year. Theme parks also pulled their weight, in part because of the new attraction. Revenues there increased 18.7% to $786M with operating cash flow up 16.9% to $402M. The Universal film studio was the quarter’s underachiever in comparison to last year when it had Despicable Me 2. Revenues fell 15.2% to $1.19B with cash flow down 20.3% to $151M.
Comcast’s main cable business performed pretty much as analysts expected: Video subscriptions fell by 81,000 — less than last year — to a total of 22.4M while broaband subs increased by 315,000 to 21.6M. Revenues increased just 1% to $5.18B with cash flow up 5.2% to $11.04B.