Comcast had a lot of moving pieces in Q4, including its consolidation of the Universal Japan theme park. But while the overall results weren’t exciting, they were at least solid. And the company should please shareholders with a 10% increase to its dividend, to $1.10 per share, as well as an increase in the stock repurchase authorization to $10 billion — including $5 billion to be bought back this year.
The media giant reported net income of $1.97 billion, up 2.4% vs the period in 2014, on revenues of $19.25 billion, up 8.5%. That beat the Street’s consensus expectation for $18.76 billion. But earnings at 79 cents a share were short of forecasts for 82 cents.
NBCUniversal benefited from earnings growth in filmed entertainment and theme parks — but not at the cable networks and broadcast TV units.
CEO Brian Roberts praised the entertainment operation’s “remarkable year” and says that in 2016 “the momentum we see across our portfolio is truly exciting.”
The NBC-led Broadcast Television unit reported a 7% increase in revenues to $2.5 billion, but with a 5.6% drop in operating cash flow to $217 million. Ad sales were up 7% “primarily driven by higher rates,” the company says. That was “more than off set by higher operating costs and expenses.”
Cable Networks were up 3.4% on the top line to $2.4 billion, but with a 1.9% drop in cash flow to $894 million. NBCU’s revenues from pay TV distribution fees increased 6.8% with the addition of NASCAR on sports net NBCSN. But ad sales fell 0.3%. And costs rose with NASCAR and higher outlays for the English Premier League.
Home video releases of Minions and Jurassic World plus a 22.7% increase in content licensing revenues lifted the Filmed Entertainment operation in a quarter when theatrical revenues fell 37.5%. Revenues were up 25.8% to $1.6 billion with cash flow up 84.6% to $143 million.
Theme Parks continued to deliver, although the numbers include an accounting change that complicates comparisons with previous years. NBCU reported a 38.6% increase in revenues to $1 billion, with cash flow up 36.6% to $452 million. But that includes the consolidation of Universal Japan — which added $169 million to the top line and $80 million to the bottom. Without the addition, theme park revenues were up 15.5% with cash flow up 12.3%.
The NBCU results were eclipsed by numbers at Comcast’s main business: cable systems. And the story there was pretty good at a time when lots of investors worry about cord cutting. Comcast’s video subscriber number increased by 89,000 in the quarter to 22.3 million. But broadband is still the star of the show with a customer base up 460,000 to 23.3 million.
Capital expenditures rose 10.2% as the company continued to roll out its X1 platform and wireless gateways. All told, cable systems saw a 5.9% increase in revenues nearly $12 billion, with operating cash flow up 4.6% to $4.9 billion.