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.

NBCU Q3 Revenues“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.

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:32 am

Hi everyone. We’re going to live blog the Comcast analyst call this morning. Lots to discuss: The FCC just delayed, for the second time, its review of Comcast’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable. Some will want to know the company’s response to HBO and CBS’ online initiatives. And, of course, there’s a lot going on at the cable systems and NBCU. 

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:34 am

CEO Brian Roberts kicks it off. He’s optimistic, of course. He cites cash flow growth at cable as a significant achievement. 315,000 net broadband adds was the best result in five years.

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:35 am

Roberts says NBCU’s results show how investments “are paying off and position us well for the future.” NBC had first fall season win in 10 years.

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:38 am

In film, Roberts says 5 films this year were No. 1 domestically. Cable networks hurt by audience fragmentation, but he talks up Bravo, USA, and CNBC. The nets “are generally undermonetized compared to our peers,” which means they have room to grow. NBCU chief Steve Burke and his team “have made great progress.”

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:40 am

Roberts appears unfazed by HBO and CBS’s announcements. “We understand content company attempts to look for new ways to grow their businesses.”

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:43 am

Roberts addresses Comcast’s rep for lousy customer service: “We need to do a better job ensuring consistent excellence.” With product upgrades progressing, he vows to offer “truly exceptional customer service….Customer service should be our best product.” Notes appointment of Charlie Herrin as head of customer experience.

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:46 am

CFO Michael Angelakis gives his review of Q3. 

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:47 am

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:49 am

36% of customers take Triple Play.

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:52 am

Programming expenses for the cable systems rose 7.1% in Q3. “We are pleased with the management of these costs year to date.” Will end year slightly lower than 9-10% growth forecast.

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:55 am

Angelakis: NBCU cable nets 4.6% decline in ad sales due to ratings. Revenues also hurt by move of Fandango to film group. 

David Lieberman October 23, 20145:56 am

Angelakis gives the familiar “difficult comparisons” explanation for the weakness at Universal Studios.

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:00 am

Cable capital expenditures to increase to 14% of cable revenue vs 12% in 2013. NBCU capex for 2014 will be “relatively stable.”

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:01 am

Universal increased production spending for expanded 2015 film slate.

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:01 am

Comcast expects Time Warner Cable deal to close in “early 2015.” 

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:02 am

Now on to Q&A with analysts.

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:05 am

We start with question about HBO going online. Does direct to consumer make sense? Brian Roberts: Punts on discussing specific announcements. Pivots to “I do think our existing business model is very strong.” Oh well. 

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:07 am

NBCU Steve Burke is more direct: Says HBO and CBS aren’t going over the top. “Both HBO and CBS are trying to add to their existing ecosystem. HBO has the most elegant, economically attractive business model.” Will be challenging to attract new customers without cannibalizing cable customers — which are “very high margin…It will be interesting to see how that works.” Same thing with CBS.  

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:11 am

Question about performance of Comcast’s cable services. X1 platform in about 75% of triple play net adds. “It continues to perform very well.”  

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:15 am

Question to Burke about ad market and uncounted viewers who watch online. He says it’s “increasingly difficult to get measurement in upscale, young homes.” It will be harder to get ratings over the next five years. …He sees a resurgence of advertising at NBC as ratings grow. But more broadly “it’s unreasonable to assume the ratings for those [TV network] businesses are going to grow” over next five years or so. For now, though, the scatter market is “just fine.”

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:20 am

Question about lower churn of Comcast’s video customers. Company says there’s less churn among X1 customers, more are buying triple play, and new features including electronic sell through of movies keep people locked in. The company also tightened credit policies.

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:22 am

Roberts jumps in to talk up the Time Warner Cable deal. He says Comcast has a “better” collection of products and technologies and “for those of you in New York or Los Angeles on the call, we’re looking forward to bringing this suite of products as fast as possible.” 

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:29 am

Roberts says he has no worries about the FCC’s second delay yesterday in its review of the Time Warner Cable deal. The regulators and programmers are at odds over how much information about TV deals should be made public. “It’s between them…It doesn’t reflect substantive concerns about our transaction.”

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:32 am

Question about broadband reclassification Roberts: “We think that broadband innovation and investment are critical to the nation’s infrastructure and the best way to have a strong and robust investment cycle” it to keep things as they are. Favors strong net neutrality. But “we don’t want to have a rule set that creates uncertainty.”

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:33 am

Burke says he was surprised by CBS and HBO announcements. “You’re going to see a lot of surprising things…I don’t think distributing directly to consumers via the Internet is an easy thing to do.” It will be hard for HBO to avoid cannibalizing its cable customers.

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:35 am

Burke says USA will spend more on original programming, but won’t offer a number. And this is interesting: “You could see us taking some of our existing sports on other channels and putting them on USA.” But over the next 5 years the sector won’t have the ratings growth that it has had over the last 5.

David Lieberman October 23, 20146:38 am

And that’s a wrap. Comcast shares just opened up about 1%.