In a conference call Wednesday, Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts said he believed the company's timing on the NBCUniversal deal was "just right" because of the resurgent advertising market.
A competing entertainment-and-news company, Time Warner Inc., parent of CNN and Warner Bros., reported Wednesday that revenue rose 10 percent, to $7 billion, in the second quarter, its best since mid-2007.
Comcast shares closed up 12 cents to $25.85; Time Warner closed down 43 cents to $33.57.
In the conference call, Steve Burke, head of NBCUniversal, noted that NBC has boosted staff at its network-owned local TV stations by 135 reporters, camera people, directors, and producers because it projected potential ratings growth in more-vibrant local-news coverage.
In Philadelphia, NBC10 will be hiring seven to 10 new on-air anchors, reporters, and photographers, NBC spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman said. The station also will purchase new trucks to expand news gathering and, in the fall, will launch 30-minute local-news shows at 4:30 and 11 a.m. NBC10 currently has a local-news show between 5 and 7 a.m., leading into the popular and profitable Today show.
The investment in the local stations is the latest by Comcast, which acquired control of NBCUniversal from General Electric in late January. Since the deal closed, Comcast has agreed to boost spending on NBC prime-time pilots by $200 million, to preserve NBC as the Olympic network by bidding more than $4 billion on rights to the Games through 2020, and to purchase the 50 percent of Universal Orlando theme park it didn't own, for $1 billion.
"Our focus now is on product," Burke said of films and NBC shows. Though it is the lowest-ranked major broadcast network, Burke said, he is confident NBC would field a competitive slate of TV shows in the fall and spring seasons. He has high hopes for an American Idol-type show called The Voice, which is coming back for a second season.
Comcast's reported pro-forma revenue growth of 9.4 percent is based on a calculation of what Comcast would have done had it owned NBCUniversal in the second quarter of both 2010 and 2011, making it an apples-to-apples comparison over the two periods. Comcast's net income grew 15.6 percent in the second quarter, to slightly more than $1 billion, from $884 million in the year-ago period.
Neil Smit, head of the cable-TV unit, said that the division that contributes most of Comcast's profit noticed a slowdown in subscriber connections in mid-May because of the economy, but that by late June and early July, "we seemed to get the connection volume going again."
Responding to an analyst's question during the Wednesday morning call, Roberts said there were no plans for Comcast to offer a national Internet-based entertainment service similar to Netflix or Hulu outside its cable-franchise territory. He agreed there appeared to be more demand for entertainment content but said he did not see a business model for such a service that worked for Comcast.
Contact staff writer Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5898 or firstname.lastname@example.org.