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Comcast Q4 Earnings: NBCUniversal Revenue Falls 18% on Lower Ratings, Delayed TV Series

“The Croods: A New Age” contributes what it can from home (and a partial theatrical release)

Comcast’s fourth-quarter 2020 financials reflected expected struggles for its NBCUniversal division due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, the company’s traditional business made up for some of the difficulties at the entertainment subsidiary.

NBCUniversal’s Q4 revenue fell 18% year to year as TV ratings declined and the rolling-out of several series was delayed due to COVID-19 production shutdowns. Cable television revenue slipped 6% from Q4 2019. Broadcast-TV (NBC) revenue declines doubled that on a percentage basis.

To-date, streaming service Peacock has reached 33 million subscribers, according to Comcast.

On the film side, “The Croods: A New Age” contributed what it could from a mostly home release. There was *some* theatrical revenue kicked in from the Nov. 25 release ($140 million worldwide at this point, according to Box Office Mojo), but overall the company’s theatrical box office haul dropped 70% from the comparable quarter in 2019.

All told, filmed entertainment revenue declined 8%.

Universal’s theme parks revenue fell 63% as the Universal Studios Hollywood location remained closed and Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Japan operated at limited capacities. Theme parks reached a “breakeven” point if one backs out the Universal Beijing pre-opening costs, Comcast said.

Comcast’s cable-providing arm, which is the company’s largest business, saw revenue rise 6%. Comcast added 455,000 new customers — its best fourth quarter on record — despite losing 248,000 video customers. High-speed internet and wireless lines more than offset the cord-cutting of cable-TV packages.

Wall Street had forecast Q4 earnings per share (EPS) of 48 cents on $26.78 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate compiled by Yahoo Finance. Comcast actually reported adjusted EPS of 56 cents on $27.708 billion in revenue.

The reported overall revenue figure was down 2.4% from the prior fourth quarter. Net income decreased 28.5%.

“Outstanding performance at cable drove very strong fourth-quarter results for our company,” Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts said Thursday in a prepared statement accompanying the financial results. “We added 538,000 net new broadband customers and delivered Adjusted EBITDA growth of over 12%. Our theme parks in Orlando and Osaka reached breakeven; and encouragingly, Sky returned to customer growth in all three of its markets, bringing our total customer relationships and overall revenue in Europe essentially back to 2019 levels.”

“With the vaccines rolling out throughout the world, we are optimistic that the parts of our business that had been most impacted will soon be back on a path towards growth,” Roberts continued. “This confidence is shared by our board of directors, which has announced an increase in the dividend for the 13th consecutive year. In addition, it is now our expectation that we will be in a position to begin repurchasing shares again in the back half of this year. While this is certainly the most challenging period we have faced, I could not be more proud of how our management team and employees continue to pull together and deliver. Today’s results are a testament to their commitment and dedication.”

Comcast increased its annual dividend by 8 cents to $1 per share this morning.

Comcast stock (CMCSA) closed Wednesday at $48.42 per share. The U.S. stock markets reopen at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Roberts and his fellow top Comcast executives will host a conference call at 8:30 a.m. ET to discuss the quarter and full-year 2020 in greater detail.

Earlier this week, Comcast’s Peacock acquired WWE Network programming at a price tag of approximately $1 billion over the next five years. That may come up.