NBCUniversal Second-Quarter Financials Rise as Film Unit Swings to Profit

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke

UPDATED: The entertainment company owned by Comcast and led by CEO Steve Burke benefited from the box-office success of "Fast & Furious 6" and also recorded stronger broadcast and cable networks results.

Cable giant Comcast on Wednesday reported better-than-expected second-quarter financials, including stronger results for its entertainment arm NBCUniversal.

The entertainment company, led by CEO Steve Burke, saw its film unit swing to a profit and its broadcast TV unit benefit from higher advertising retransmission consent fees in what was Comcast's first quarter of full ownership of NBCUniversal.

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NBCUniversal recorded operating cash flow of $1.19 billion for the quarter, up 21.3 percent from the $982 million reported in the year-ago period. The film unit swung to operating cash flow of $33 million after a year-ago loss of $83 million. The company cited "the strong performance of the film slate," which included blockbuster Fast & Furious 6, and "higher content licensing revenue from the availability of certain films in international television markets."

The company's broadcast and cable TV units also reported growth in operating cash flow, which is a popular profitability metric. They recorded improvements of 6.4 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively. But the theme parks unit recorded a 1.6 percent decline in the latest quarter.

NBCUniversal's quarterly revenue came in at $6.00 billion, up 8.9 percent compared with $5.50 billion amid growth in all divisions. The improvement was led by gains of 12.8 percent at the film unit, 11.6 percent at the broadcast arm and 7.7 percent at the cable networks division. Theme parks revenue rose 1.1 percent.

Comcast, led by chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, earlier this year acquired full control of NBCUniversal by buying out a 49 percent stake held by General Electric.

The cable giant's second-quarter earnings exceeded Wall Street estimates as earnings of $1.73 billion rose 6.8 percent from $1.35 billion. Revenue increased 7 percent to $16.27 billion.

Comcast's cable systems lost 159,000 video subscribers in the second quarter, an improvement over the year-ago loss of 176,000. But Roberts lauded the company's highest second-quarter broadband subscriber gains in five years.

"NBCUniversal had strong performance across all of its businesses," said Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts. "NBCUniversal has real momentum, with solid growth in revenue and double-digit cash flow growth. We have a fantastic combination of cable and content businesses with many opportunities ahead."

At the entertainment company, broadcast TV segment revenue rose in the second quarter amid a 13 percent increase in advertising revenue, "primarily reflecting higher primetime ratings at the NBC broadcast network," and higher retransmission consent fees, partially offset by lower content licensing revenue due to the timing of content availability, the company said. The company particularly highlighted the continued ratings and ad success of The Voice.

Cable networks unit revenue grew amid a new content licensing agreement, a 4.4 percent increase in distribution revenue and a 5.7 percent ad increase.

Theme parks results were affected in the year-over-year comparison by a shift of holidays to the first quarter this year and the costs of new attractions.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai