Comcast Corp. rode a big-time movie slate -- Fifty Shades Darker, Get Out, and Split — along with a good performance in its cable division to a 9 percent jump in revenue in the first quarter, the company said Thursday morning.
"2017 is off to the fastest start in five years," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a conference call Thursday morning with Wall Street analysts. He also gave a call out to the new top executive in the cable division, David Watson, who has replaced Neil Smit and participated in the call.
Comcast's first-quarter revenue gain of 8.9 percent was the fastest since 2012 and brought in $20.5 billion. Net income attributable to Comcast grew 20 percent, to $2.7 billion.
The Philadelphia company added 42,000 TV subscribers, continuing its recovery in the business but down from a year ago, and 429,000 high-speed Xfinity internet customers.
Comcast also disclosed that it enrolled 66,000 new customers into its Xfinity Home security business in the first quarter, bringing the total of subscribers in the security and home-automation offering to about one million.
The average Comcast customers, meanwhile, paid the company about $150 a month for TV, internet, and home phone as they bundled Xfinity services and shelled out more for entertainment and faster internet speeds.
Comcast's operations are broken down into two large businesses — the legacy cable division and entertainment conglomerate NBCUniversal, which owns the NBC broadcast-TV network, theme parks, a Hollywood movie studio, and cable-TV networks.
Revenue at NBCUniversal, particularly at the Universal movie studio, led by former Comcast executive Steve Burke, rose almost double the corporate increase, at 14.7 percent to $7.9 billion. Profits soared 24.4 percent to $2 billion.
Based on this, Roberts called Comcast's 2011 deal for NBCUniversal "perhaps the best in our history." Analyst Jessica Reif-Cohen with Merrill Lynch added that NBCUniversal's first-quarter performance could be the "best results in media."
Comcast released its earnings as speculation swirled about potential megadeals in the wireless industry and as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, said he would seek to roll back Obama-era regulations on the internet.
Comcast and other big telecom companies opposed those Obama-era regulations as overly burdensome on companies.
Roberts said that he was "heartened" by Pai's actions to lighten internet regulations. He and other big telecom executives feared that the FCC eventually would regulate internet rates on consumers.
There has been talk for months about whether Comcast and wireless giant Verizon Communications Inc. could do a deal — speculation tamped down by Comcast but encouraged by Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam in a media interview — as Americans consume more video on smartphones and tablets.
But Comcast executives downplayed any aggressive deal-making or expansion into wireless in the conference call, saying they were content with the launch of Xfinity Mobile. The recently announced Comcast wireless service will resell Verizon network and offload some data traffic onto Comcast's WiFi network.
"We have been talking about the wireless industry for 20 years," Roberts observed on the call, noting also some of the recent problems with the wireless industry and its maturing growth. "Right now, we look at our results and compare them with what we've seen" at wireless companies, he added.