Earnings: Olympics Help Comcast Earn Higher 3Q Profits

Company loses fewer video customers than expected

Comcast Corp. posted a higher quarterly profit on Friday thanks in large part to increased revenues from NBCUniversal's Olympics coverage.

Comcast's third-quarter net income was $2.1 billion, or 78 cents a share, compared with $908 million, or 33 cents a share a year earlier.

Revenue for NBCUniversal increased 31.2 percent to $6.8 billion in the third quarter of 2012 compared to $5.2 billion in the third quarter of 2011, primarily driven by 2012 London Olympics revenue of $1.2 billion in the Broadcast Television segment. Excluding the Olympics, NBCUniversal revenue increased 8.3 percent.

"Steve Burke and his team are making steady progress thorughout all of NBCUniversal," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said of the NBCU CEO.

Roberts said NBC's ratings are up 17 percent over last season and up 31 percent in entertainment. It is the first time it has led the broadcast networks in the ratings in the first four weeks of the season since 2002. NBC spent years in fourth place.

"It's certainy early but I believe and hope we are seeing the beginning of a turnaround at NBC," Roberts said.

Comcast also lost fewer video customers and gained more online customers than analysts expected.

Excluding gains from sales of spectrum and a stake in A&E Networks, earnings came to 46 cents a share — up 39 percent. That matched analysts' average estimate, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 15 percent to $16.54 billion, beating Wall Street estimates of $16.08 billion.

The games drew a record audience that averaged 31.1 million viewers per night, 12 percent more than the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Strong Olympics ratings mean Comcast will at least break even on its $1.18 billion deal for Olympics broadcast rights, while analysts had initially expected it to lose money from the agreement.

Comcast took a 51 percent controlling stake in NBC Universal in January 2011. It holds the U.S. broadcast rights for the next four Olympic contests.

The cable unit, which includes video and Internet, earned $9.98 billion in revenues, up 6.9 percent. The company lost 117,000 video customers, which beat StreetAccount estimates of a loss of 133,000. Its 287,000 new Internet customers also beat expectations.

Reuters contributed to this story.