Comcast reports mixed results for first quarter

Posted: May 03, 2013

Comcast Corp. reported weaker quarterly results for NBC broadcast TV and deeper cable-TV subscriber losses in the first quarter, but higher revenues and profits because of TV rate hikes and growth in other parts of the business.

Theme parks, big-screen movies, and business services did well.

Revenue at the cable-TV and media conglomerate rose 3 percent to $15.3 billion when compared with the same period of the prior year.

Comcast's profits jumped to $1.44 billion from $1.2 billion for the quarter, or 54 cents a share. Some of the higher profits resulted from the sale of wireless spectrum to AT&T Inc. for $108 million, or $67 million after taxes.

Brian Roberts, chief executive officer and chairman, said Comcast was seeing a modest economic recovery but housing has yet to boom and boost its TV and Internet customer base.

Comcast officials, responding to questions from analysts during a conference call, said they were sticking with marketing the "triple play" bundle of TV, Internet, and phone services. Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable-TV company, said recently it planned to shift away from the three-product bundle because many customers would like to purchase only TV and Internet.

"We are still very focused on the triple customer," Comcast cable division president Neil Smit told the analysts. He and others have said that triple play customers were less likely to drop Comcast for a competing telecommunications service.

Michael Angelakis, the chief financial officer and vice chairman, added that Comcast would "continue to look at lifetime customer value" with its products.

Comcast's cable division lost 60,000 TV subscribers in the first quarter, more than the 37,000 a year ago.

About 30,000 of the TV losses were a result of a new methodology in how Comcast counts TV subscribers in hotels, apartment complexes, and businesses. The other 30,000 were customers dropping Xfinity.

Comcast officials attributed the subscriber drain to TV rate hikes and equipment charges affecting about three-quarters of its customers.

Comcast does not report profits in its business services division, but it does report revenue. That rose to $741 million from $581 million in the first quarter of 2012.

The addition of high-speed Internet customers continued in 2013, with 433,000 new ones. The year-ago number was 439,000. Comcast also seemed to resume healthy growth with phones, adding 211,000 customers compared with 164,000 in the year-ago quarter.

NBC's broadcast TV operating loss widened to $35 million from $14 million. The network front-loaded new episodes of The Voice into the 2012 fall season to benefit from the audience attracted to NBC with the London Olympic Games. That meant new episodes weren't available to air in the first quarter of this year. Then, two new prime-time NBC shows bombed.

Steve Burke, head of NBCUniversal, said NBC needs one or two new hit prime-time shows for the network to find its groove. NBC, he said, should finish in a solid third place among the four broadcast-TV networks.

Theme park profits, part of NBCUniversal, strengthened to $173 million from $157 million.


Contact Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or bob.fernandez@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @bobfernandez1.

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