Who needs Time Warner Cable? Comcast stock is up 2.7% in pre-market trading after it said that it will add $2.5 billion to its stock repurchase plan — to $6.75 billion for 2015 — and reported strong Q1 results almost entirely across its broad board. Ratings improved at NBC, the film studio profited from Fifty Shades Of Grey, and Universal Theme Parks benefited from Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley.
The No. 1 cable company reported net income of $2.1 billion, up 10.1% vs the period in 2014, on revenues of $17.9 billion, +2.6%. The top line beat analyst expectations for $17.4 billion. Earnings at 81 cents a share were well ahead of predictions for 74 cents.
“We begin 2015 with great momentum and remain confident that we are well positioned with an impressive portfolio of complementary businesses to continue our strong performance and drive shareholder value,” CEO Brian Roberts says.
The NBCUniversal results are complicated by two events: It saw $1.1 billion in revenue from the Sochi Olympics in 2014, and $376 million this year from the Super Bowl. If you include them, then its revenues fell 4% to $6.6 billion. If you exclude the events, then the number represents an increase of 7.9%. All in, operating cash flow improved 14% to $1.9 billion.
NBC’s broadcast operation was surprisingly strong, with $2.2 billion in revenues, up 5.5% without the extraordinary events, and cash flow up 48.9% to $182 million. Comcast says that’s due to higher ratings, plus lower programming costs (the Olympics are expensive) — and adds that the Super Bowl was profitable.
The Cable Networks numbers are a little more mixed with revenues of $2.4 billion, up 4.9% without the Olympics, and cash flow off 0.3% to $898 million. Ad sales were “stable” as the ratings fall at its portfolio of networks offset an increase in ad prices and volume.
Specifically, NBCU says that ad revenues improved 5.5% in broadcast without the Super Bowl and Olympics, and 4.3% at the cable nets without the Olympics.
Filmed Entertainment met expectations as revenues increased 7% to $1.4 billion with cash flow up 1.7% to $293 million. Theatrical revenues fell, despite the help from Grey — and expenses were up as Universal marketed Furious 7, released on April 3 after the quarter ended. But Universal was helped by content licensing and home entertainment revenue.
Universal’s theme parks had a great quarter, though, with revenues up 33.7% to $651 million and cash flow improving 54.6% to $263 million. Comcast credits the Potter attraction in Orlando for helping to lift attendance and per capita spending.
Meanwhile at the main cable systems business, Comcast ended the quarter with almost as many Internet customers as cable TV ones. The video operation was down 8,000 to 22.38 million while broadband was up 407,000 to 22.37 million. All told, the systems generated $11.4 billion in revenue, up 6.3%, with cash flow of $1.4 billion, up 6.2%.
Comcast also reported that it spent $99 million in the first three months of this year pursuing its deals with Time Warner Cable and Charter. Roberts pulled the plug on them after facing resistance from the Justice Department and FCC.