Comcast Bests Q4 Earnings Estimates as NBC and Cable TV Offset Big Box Office Decline

Universal Pictures revenue was up 20 percent for the entirety of 2017

Last Updated: January 24, 2018 @ 6:53 AM

Comcast reported its fourth-quarter and full-year 2017 results early Wednesday morning, and the NBCUniversal parent company’s shareholders are probably as pleased as their chairman and CEO, Brian L. Roberts.

For Q4, Wall Street had forecast earnings per share of 47 cents on $21.82 billion in revenue, according to a Yahoo Finance poll. Comcast reported EPS of 49 cents on $21.92 billion in revenue, topping media analysts’ consensus.

The company’s Cable Communications arm — its biggest segment by far — grew revenues by 3.4 percent in the quarter and 4.9 percent for the year. The uptick was mostly thanks to internet products. Comcast’s TV bundle was also up with some rate adjustments. Cord-cutters cost Comcast 33,000 video customers in Q4 and 151,000 for the year.

Cable television was a fourth-quarter standout for NBCUniversal, which overall grew its revenues by 3.9 percent in the 90-day period and 4.4 percent across the year. With better distribution, content licensing and ad sales, the cable arm increased its revenue by 7.5 percent in the quarter.

At NBC broadcast, Q4 revenue rose 4.1 percent despite a lesser advertising take due to lower TV ratings. Better retransmission fees were an important offset.

With both the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang and Super Bowl LII coming in the current quarter, NBC broadcast executives are warming up their money counters.

Filmed entertainment revenue decreased 5.2 percent in Q4, with a big 42.1 percent box office drop-off. The culprit: fewer films released when compared with Q4 2016. The prior year’s “Sing” also helped set a tough bar to match, despite this reported quarter’s best efforts out of “Pitch Perfect 3.”

Over the course of the entire year, filmed revenue grew 20.4 percent. Though the segment is smaller than either cable or broadcast, on a percentage basis, the Universal Pictures-led leg represented the company’s largest annual gain. The film business set a new record in terms of yearly profit, as Roberts will boast to you in the statement below.

Theme parks revenue rose 8.7 percent due to higher per capita spending. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood continues to prove a boon, and the new Minion Park in Japan and Volcano Bay in Orlando offered new money-making opportunities.

“I am exceptionally proud of our performance this past year, and we enter 2018 with significant momentum,” Roberts said in a statement accompanying the earnings release. “In 2017, we achieved strong financial and operational results while also delivering new innovations, experiences and must-see content to people around the world.”

“At Cable, our best-in-class products and continued focus on the customer experience drove healthy [Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization] growth balanced with strong customer relationship net additions,” he continued. “At NBCUniversal, our Film business achieved record profitability, our Theme Parks delivered record attendance, and our TV business produced strong results — demonstrating the power of our sports, news and entertainment content.”

“The Olympics highlight our strengths and capabilities across Comcast NBCUniversal, as we combine the storytelling of NBC with Comcast technology to create a truly spectacular viewing experience,” Roberts concluded. “Overall, we feel great about our company and our positioning as we head into the year.”

Roberts and the board increased their dividend by 21 percent. It was the company’s 10th-straight annual dividend increase.

CMCSA stock closed Tuesday at $42.44, down 45 cents per share. Expect that course to reverse when the U.S. markets reopen at 9:30 a.m. ET today.