Consumer demand for high-speed internet surged last quarter at NBCUniversal parent Comcast even as theme park revenue plunged 80% in a mixed earnings report that reflected the ongoing pandemic. Theatrical revenue, for instance, plunged 95%, home entertainment sales surged nearly 50%.
Peacock sign-ups hit 22 million, exceeding every internal engagement metric for the new streaming service — even without the Olympics or The Office — the company said Thursday. At last check — a media conference in mid-September — it had 15 million sign-ups, which was up 50% from the 10 million Comcast reported with its second quarter numbers in July.
It added a whopping 633,333 high-speed Internet customers for the three months ended in September.
The stock was up 2% in early trading.
Total revenue was $25.5 billion, down 4.8% but ahead of expectations. Adjusted earnings per share came in at $0.65 a share. Net income was $2 billion, or $$ 0.44.
Revenue at NBCUniversal fell about 19% to $6.7 billion in quarter. Adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) dropped by 39% to $1.3 billion.
Filmed entertainment revenue fell 25% to $1.3 billion on lower theatrical and other revenue, partially offset by higher content licensing and home entertainment revenue. Theatrical revenue plunged by 95% with many cinemas closed as a result of COVID-19.
Other revenue — which includes a live stage play business — decreased 45%, reflecting theater and entertainment venue closures.
Content licensing revenue rose 14% on the timing of agreements, including transactions with Peacock in the quarter.
Home entertainment revenue surged 49%, including the success of Trolls World Tour.
Cable Networks revenue dipped 1.3% to $2.7 billion on lower distribution and advertising sales partially offset by content licensing.
Broadcast revenue grew 8.3% to $2.4 billion on higher content licensing revenue and distribution offset by lower ad sales. Content licensing revenue surged 66%, reflecting the timing of content provided under licensing agreements, also, as with cable, including transactions with Peacock in the third quarter of 2020.
Distribution and other revenue increased 4.9%, due to higher retransmission consent fees. Advertising revenue decreased 11.5%, reflecting continued ratings declines, partially offset by higher pricing and local political ad sales.
At hard hit theme parks, revenue collapsed 81% to $311 million. Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Japan are open and operating at limited capacity, while Universal Studios Hollywood remains closed as a result of COVID-19.
“We are nearly eight months into this pandemic – and despite many harsh realities, I couldn’t be more pleased and proud of how our team has worked together across the company to find safe and creative solutions to successfully operate in this environment. We are executing at the highest level; and perhaps, most importantly, accelerating innovation, which will drive long-term future growth,” said CEO Brian Roberts in a statement.
He said the record 633,000 high-speed internet customers add worked out to 556,000 total net new customer relationships.
Roberts and other top executives will provide commentary on the numbers at a conference call at 8:30 ET.
He’s sure to tout Peacock. At a media conference in mid-September, he said subscribers for the new streaming service had surged to 15 million, up 50% from 10 million in July. Roberts said then the app was the second most popular on its OTT product Xfinity Flex behind Netflix, and number three on Xfinity X1 behind Netflix and YouTube. Last month, Peacock also inked a deal with Roku.
The service launched in April for Comcast customers and went wide in July. At an investor day in January, NBCU and Comcast execs issued forecast 30 to 35 million active users and the service hitting breakeven by 2024.
He may also address the ongoing restructuring at Peacock NBCUniversal, which, like other media giants, has seen major executive changes and lots of streamlining. Earlier this month, Susan Rovner, former president of Warner Bros. Television, started as Chairman, Entertainment Content for NBCUniversal’s Television and Streaming division. Deadline reported yesterday that November 12 is penciled in as the target date for a second wave of staff reductions to begin. The cuts will likely come in waves, one in mid-November and one to follow in late December or early 2021, with as many as 150-300 employees affected.
Comcast’s overall story is one of broadband internet success versus weakness in its traditional media business from cable networks to TV and movie production to theme parks and advertising.
Americans stuck at home during the pandemic have been signing up for more Internet service and higher speeds at a steady clip, benefitting Comcast’s Xfinity unit.
No so for parks. Universal Orlando is open at reduced capacity but Universal Studios Hollywood is still shut and has been laying off staff. California Gov. Gavin Newsom made it clear this week that he has doubts about the safety of large theme parks and they won’t be opening any time soon.
Theaters in key movie markets New York City and Los Angeles also remain shut, promoting a vicious cycle of Hollywood studios postponing major new releases. Comcast’s NBC Universal has a revenue-sharing deal with giant cinema chain AMC Entertainment that allows the studio to shorten the traditional 90-day theatrical window and move a film directly to PVOD after 17 days, including upcoming Universal releases The Croods: A New Age, Freaky and News of the World. It was the first but but other studios and exhibitors are said to be talking about inking similar deals as the impact of COVID on movie theaters continue to linger.
The big question is — what now? A spike in the virus across the U.S. and Europe, that’s resulted in new lockdowns in Germany, Italy and France has investors jittery. The stock market has a been a disaster this week, hitting its lowest level since June yesterday.
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