We've Got Hollywood Covered

Comcast Q4 Earnings Top Estimates as Universal’s ‘The Grinch,’ ‘Halloween’ Boost Box Office

NBCU TV chips in with better distribution income

Bolstered by a pair of holiday-based, ticket-moving movies in “Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch” and “Halloween,” Universal Pictures owner Comcast bested media analysts’ fourth-quarter (Q4) financial predictions.

Wall Street had forecast Q4 earnings per share (EPS) of 62 cents on $27.55 billion in revenue, per a Yahoo Finance consensus estimate. Comcast actually reported adjusted EPS of 64 cents on $27.85 billion in revenue.

Peeling back some big tax benefits from the end of 2017, this quarter’s earnings increased from the comparable three months last year. It’d be a very different story if one left them in, but the Street knew that to be a one-time thing.

Revenue at Comcast’s cable communications business grew 5.2 percent over the recently wrapped 90 days. Consistent with the trends these days, that is the net of high-speed internet and business increases more than offsetting TV and voice declines — the cord cutters.

Comcast’s cable-providing business added 258,000 customers in Q4 2018.

Its NBCUniversal experienced Q4 revenue growth across the board. On a purely percentage basis, it was filmed entertainment (+14%) leading the pack, thanks to a 189.3 percent jump at the box office versus Q4 2017. Lower licensing and home releases took a big chunk out of that hike, but not the whole thing.

Television is still the bigger business for NBCU, and cable revenue growth of 8.9 percent outpaced broadcast’s 3.7 percent increases. The cable channels enjoyed higher distribution and content licensing, though they lost viewers. NBC proper could pin its momentum on better distribution and ad sales, though ratings declined there as well.

Finally, it is worth mentioning how Comcast’s new acquisition Sky performed in essentially its first quarter under new ownership. On a pro forma basis, revenues for Sky increased 2.4 percent to $5 billion in the fourth quarter. Sky’s big direct-to-consumer business rose 4 percent in the quarter ending Dec. 31, 2018.

Comcast paid $39 million for Sky in a September bidding war with Disney-Fox.

Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation, said the following in a statement accompanying his company’s financials:

2018 was a successful and pivotal year for Comcast. I’m pleased with the strong operational and financial results that we delivered across the company. Highlighting a few of our accomplishments during the past year, Comcast Cable’s customer relationship growth accelerated, driven by our 13th consecutive year of over 1 million broadband net additions. 2018 Cable EBITDA growth was the highest in seven years, underscoring the financially attractive transition of our business to connectivity. NBCUniversal had a great year, fueled by double-digit growth in our TV businesses, reflecting our terrific broadcasts of big events like the NFL’s Super Bowl LII, the 2018 Olympics, and the FIFA World Cup, and overall robust demand for our leading sports, news and entertainment content. We truly became a global company with our acquisition of Sky, and are excited about its future and the potential of our combined company in 2019 and beyond. Comcast’s track record of consistent financial performance and our confidence in our outlook for continued, profitable growth is what underpins our announcement of a 10% increase in our dividend in 2019, our 11th consecutive annual increase.

Comcast executives will host a conference call at 8:30 a.m. ET Wednesday to discuss the quarter and fiscal year in more detail.

Shares of Comcast closed Tuesday at $34.97 apiece, down $1.24 for the day. The U.S. stock markets officially reopen at 9:30 a.m. ET, though the premarket numbers are currently looking good for shareholder value.