Comcast revenues climb on strong theme parks, films

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Comcast Corp., the telecom and entertainment giant, had 9.8 percent revenue growth in the second quarter.

Comcast Corp.’s second-quarter revenue rose 9.8 percent as customer growth in its cable franchise slowed, but NBCUniversal picked up the slack with the billion-dollar Fate of the Furious blockbuster. Net income at the nation’s largest cable operator jumped almost 24 percent to $2.5 billion.

Comcast’s results — described by analyst Craig Moffett as unspectacular but good nonetheless — were overshadowed in a big day of earnings reports in the telecom industry by resurgent performances at Charter Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications.

Charter, the nation’s second-largest cable operator, lost 90,000 TV customers, which was slightly better than its losses of 100,000 TV customers a year ago. Verizon boosted its wireless customer base with 614,000 new customers. “Verizon reignited its growth engine in the quarter, both adding and retaining wireless customers while scaling our media business and continuing to invest in our superior networks,” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said.

Stocks in both companies soared, Charter jumping 5 percent to $366.90. Verizon stock rose 7.8 percent to $47.84.

Comcast shares were basically flat, up 10 cents, closing at $39.43.

Tom Eagan, analyst with the Telsey Advisory Group, dismissed any concern. Comcast is “one of the most consistent companies in the media space,” he said, adding that he believed it was a “core holding” for investors.

Analysts had been forecasting a disastrous period for cable-TV subscribers because of the seasonally weak time of year — college kids leaving campus and summer vacations — and the acceleration of cord-cutting with Netflix, Amazon, and other internet streamers.

Comcast lost 34,000 TV subscribers in the period, compared with 4,000 cable-TV losses a year ago.

The Philadelphia company added 175,000 high-speed internet customers, a disappointment as that number was down from 220,000 in the year-ago period. Comcast officials said it is tough to compare with last year because it gained new subscribers due to a union strike at Verizon and AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV.

This year, Comcast faced fierce discounting from both Verizon and AT&T.

“We go through competitive cycles with all sorts of providers,” Dave Watson, the head of Comcast’s cable division, said in a Thursday morning conference call in response to a question as to whether Comcast would match deep discounting. “We’ve been doing that for a long time.” Watson indicated that the company would avoid price wars.

Comcast’s cable division second-quarter revenue rose 5.5 percent in the quarter as NBCUniversal’s revenue jumped 17.3 percent. Revenue at the Universal movie studio soared almost 60 percent to $2.2 billion for the quarter, mostly on the strength of franchise hit Fate of the Furious.

Total revenue for the quarter was $21.2 billion compared with $19.3 billion a year ago. Earnings per share rose to 52 cents from 41 cents.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement that the company “delivered terrific results.”

Wall Street analysts and investment bankers have repeatedly floated the idea that Comcast could engage in deal-making. Comcast executives have met with officials from wireless carrier Sprint and Scripps Networks Interactive Inc., owner of the popular how-to HGTV channel. But Comcast also has expressed no interest in a deal.

With Sprint, Comcast would like to negotiate a more favorable wireless-wholesaling deal so it can use Sprint spectrum for its new mobile product Xfinity Mobile. Comcast also has said it likes its portfolio of cable networks and does not see a need to add more cable networks with Scripps.

“We’ve said in multiple forums that we really feel like we are not missing anything,” Roberts said in the conference call with analysts Thursday morning.

“Comcast’s second-quarter results are unspectacular,” analyst Moffett, who is with MoffettNathanson LLC, said  in a research note Thursday. “But only because, against expectations that were already, well, spectacular, Comcast delivered exactly what was expected. It’s good to be Comcast. Now if only people would stop trying to convince them to be someone else.”