Hurricanes, telecoms batter Comcast with projected deep TV losses

Hurricane Irma
In this geocolor image released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Hurricane Irma approaches Anguilla on Wednesday. The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has roared into the Caribbean, its winds ripping off roofs and knocking out phones.

Comcast Corp. could lose 100,000 to 150,000 cable-TV subscribers as hurricanes pummel its markets and telephone competitors sharply discount their services in other parts of the country.

On Thursday, the company warned of those two storm clouds that threaten its businesses, even as the Walt Disney Co. disclosed at the same California investor conference weakness in its own media operations.

At the close of trading on Wall Street, Comcast stock had shed 6.24 percent, or 2.57, to $38.60 a share, and Disney was down 4.37 percent, or 4.44, to $97.06 a share.

Matthew Strauss, executive vice president of Xfinity services, informed the Bank of America Merrill Lynch investor gathering in Beverly Hills that Comcast could lose that number of cable-TV customers in the third quarter. Comcast is a big cable provider in the Houston area, which has sustained severe flooding from Hurricane Harvey. The Philadelphia-based company also has significant operations in Florida, which appears about to be run over by Hurricane Irma.

Comcast’s cable division will still make its financial numbers for the third quarter despite the stress on the operation, company officials say. But it has to deal with another potential crisis: Its NBCUniversal subsidiary’s Universal Orlando theme park is right in Irma’s potential path.

Just as important have been AT&T and Verizon, which are discounting TV and internet services in Comcast franchise areas.

A Comcast official said Thursday that the price-cutting from these two telecom giants “is the strongest we have seen in recent history.” They appear to be bundling TV and internet services with their wireless phones as they compete for wireless market share with T-Mobile.