Comcast Reports First Quarterly Results Since Closing NBCUniversal Deal

Angela Weiss/Getty Images
Brian Roberts

New majority owner Comcast also reports improved financials, but loses cable TV subscribers to end March with 22.76 million subs, just below Netflix's 22.8 million.

NEW YORK - In its first earnings report since acquiring a majority stake in NBCUniversal in late January, Comcast Corp. on Tuesday posted a higher first-quarter profit as revenue rose 32 percent thanks to the addition of the entertainment company and continued growth in advanced cable services.

The cable giant said quarterly operating cash flow at NBCUniversal amounted to $496 million, up 4.9 percent compared with $473 million in the year-ago period. Revenue declined 11.5 percent to $4.35 billion. Excluding the effect of last year's Vancouver Olympics, revenue rose 5.2 percent.

Meanwhile, as expected by analysts, Comcast said it lost video subscribers - 39,000 down from a loss of 82,000 in the year-ago period and a drop of 135,000 in the fourth quarter of 2010. That allowed Netflix to become the largest U.S. entertainment subscription business as of the end of the first quarter. Comcast had 22.76 million basic video customers as of the end of March, compared with Netflix's 22.8 million U.S. users.

At NBCUniversal, cable networks revenue rose 13.3 percent to $2.02 billion and theme parks revenue rose 16.1 percent to $95 million, while film revenue dropped 8.2 percent to $975 million amid lower theatrical and home entertainment results and broadcast TV revenue fell 34.9 percent to $1.35 billion. Excluding the year-ago benefit from the Olympics, broadcast revenue rose 4.3 percent thanks to higher advertising.

Operating cash flow at the cable networks rose 7.2 percent to $817 million, while broadcast TV contributed $20 million thanks to a swing from a year-ago loss of $182 million, and the film unit recorded an operating cash flow loss of $146 million after a year-ago loss of $12 million. The increased film loss came amid lower revenue and higher marketing spending on April releases. Excluding an Olympics loss of $223 million in the year-ago period, the broadcast unit would have posted positive year-ago operating cash flow of $41 million. On that basis, results declined due to increased programming investment.

Comcast's total first-quarter revenue amounted to $12.1 billion, up nearly 32 percent including $9.1 billion in cable systems revenue and two months of NBCUniversal results. Total consolidated earnings on that basis rose 9 percent from $866 million to $943 million.

"The performance of NBCUniversal was led by our cable networks, which posted strong growth across the board," Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in lauding "a terrific start" to 2011. "While we’ve only been operating the NBCUniversal businesses for three months, we’re encouraged by a seamless integration, and we are working diligently to invest and build value for our shareholders."

Comcast is scheduled to hold its quarterly earnings call Wednesday morning.

Twitter: @georgszalai