Comcast CFO: Universal Pictures to Have Most Profitable Year Ever

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts

At an investor conference, he also talks about pay TV subscriber trends and the planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable

Comcast's NBCUniversal is on track for its film studio to record its most profitable year in its 100-year-plus history, CFO Michael Angelakis told an investor conference in New York on Monday.

Saying that NBCUniversal has been "fantastic" to acquire for Comcast in strategic and financial terms, he touted the film studio's performance. "The studio will have the most profitable year this year in its history," he told the 42nd annual UBS ‎Global Media and Communications Conference. "We will have the most profitable year in the ... history of Universal."

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NBCUniversal's film unit reported operating cash flow, the metric of profitability that Comcast uses, of $634 million for the first nine months of 2014, compared with $291 million for the same period in 2013 despite a 7.3 percent revenue decline. While that signaled a record, Angelakis confirmed that it would be a new record on Monday, ahead of the company's full-year earnings report early in 2015. In 2013, the film unit brought in operating cash flow of $483 million, which was its most profitable year so far.

Angelakis touted the "very solid job" the studio management team has done, highlighting seven number 1-ranked movies this year despite a smaller release slate. In 2015, the studio will see big sequels, he added. 

He also said the NBC broadcast network has had "real progress," but more upside. "We know we have a lot more work to do," even though the company is happy that the network has grown its ratings, the Comcast CFO said.

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Angelakis also said at the UBS conference that the company was looking forward to integrating Time Warner Cable after its acquisition. He said he hoped for a deal to close in the first quarter, most likely in the latter part of the quarter. He said he was confident the deal would get finished.

Comcast, led by chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, has repeatedly said it expects a deal to acquire Time Warner Cable be approved in early 2015 after originally eyeing a regulatory decision by year's end. Comcast is the largest U.S. cable operator.

Angelakis said "I am probably more confident that we can execute well" now than when the deal was first announced. He said the integration of NBCUniversal went well, citing how the Universal Pictures studio is having its most profitable year in its history this year.

The Comcast CFO cited revenue synergies with TWC, whose current CEO Rob Marcus spoke at the UBS conference earlier in the day, as an area of added opportunity given that the company hasn't discussed those much so far.

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Angelakis was also asked if Comcast's pay TV subscribers can grow again. "I think we are optimistic," he said. "You have to be optimistic." He said he expected the company would "continue to improve."

Cord cutting and cord shaving is "still pretty small," and Comcast can compete pretty well with others, the CFO said.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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