Bernstein Research raised its earnings-per-share forecast for the cable giant this morning after analysts Craig Moffett and Todd Juenger concluded that NBCUniversal “has gone from albatross to a key part of the bull case” for Comcast — and could generate an additional $1.5B in annual cash flow by 2016. Where will the money come from? The analysts say that they’re highly confident NBC can generate $837M by 2016 from pay TV distributors. Cable and satellite companies should be spending $1.10 per subscriber per month for the right to retransmit NBC by then. The company-owned stations will collect the entire amount while affiliates, in the computation, will turn over to NBC about half of their proceeds. Meanwhile, the analysts expect pay TV providers to cough up an additional $190M in 2016 for NBCU cable networks including USA and MSNBC — twice as much as they’ll likely pay in 2014. NBC’s ratings also could improve enough to produce an additional $450M, although Moffett and Juenger say they’re only moderately confident about this. Since there’s no way they can predict what the network will air, let along how the shows will perform, they just assume that NBC will strengthen enough to be ahead of ABC but behind CBS in the competition for ad dollars. Although NBC is still struggling, “there are signs of life” with hits including Revolution and The Voice and a sitcom, Go On, that “at least shows promise.” They’re more cautious when it comes to predicting the cable networks’ ability to raise ad rates: The forecast assumes no additional cash flow. “Certain networks may be under-earning relative to peer networks, but without better data, we cannot opine on that,” they say.
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