NBCUniversal Third-Quarter Earnings Rise Driven by 'Minions,' 'Jurassic World'

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke

Cable giant Comcast lost fewer pay TV subscribers, while profitability in its cable networks unit declined.

Cable giant Comcast on Tuesday reported improved third-quarter financials for entertainment arm NBCUniversal.

The entertainment company, led by CEO Steve Burke, reported higher operating cash flow and revenue than in the same period last year driven by growth in its film unit, which was boosted by box-office strength from the likes of Minions and Jurassic World, which helped it to a record box-office result for the quarter.

Overall, it was the studio unit's second-most profitable quarter ever.

The year-ago quarter included results from such theatrical releases as Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson, and James Brown biopic Get on Up.

Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company, on Tuesday also said that its third-quarter broadband subscriber figures topped its pay TV user numbers for the second quarter in a row. Comcast lost 48,000 pay TV subscribers in the latest quarter, down from a year-ago loss of 81,000, to end September with 22.26 million pay TV subscribers. It said that made it its best third quarter in nine years. Comcast also added broadband users to end the quarter with 22.87 million and voice customers.

NBCUniversal "delivered terrific results, including another record-breaking box-office quarter driven by Minions and Jurassic World, the highest summer attendance ever at our theme parks and maintaining the #1 broadcast network ranking for the fifth summer in a row," said Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts. "These outstanding results from our unique portfolio of complementary businesses underscore our confidence that we are well positioned to compete, continue our strong performance and drive shareholder value."

NBCUniversal's third-quarter revenue rose 20.8 percent to $7.15 billion, driven by a 64 percent jump in the film unit and a 14.1 percent theme parks unit gain. Broadcast TV revenue increased 11.3 percent, with cable networks revenue up 7.0 percent.

NBCUniversal's operating cash flow rose 17 percent driven by a 149.5 percent jump for the film unit and a 14.1 percent theme parks gain. Broadcast TV profit rose 6.1 percent, while the cable networks unit posted a decline of 3.9 percent.

The cable networks unit revenue growth was driven by an 8.6 percent increase in distribution revenue and a 2.0 percent advertising increase, partially reflecting the introduction of NASCAR sports network NBCSN, as well as a 17.6 percent increase in content licensing and other revenue. Operating cash flow at the unit fell though as the higher revenue was more than offset by increased sports programming costs, driven by the impact of NASCAR.

Broadcast TV unit revenue rose driven by a 33.5 percent increase in content licensing revenue, higher retransmission consent fees and a 2.8 percent ad improvement. Operating cash flow reflected the higher revenue, partially offset by an increase in programming and production costs associated with the timing of content provided under licensing agreements and studio production costs.

Comcast third-quarter revenue rose 11.2 percent to $18.70 billion, ahead of expectations, as earnings fell to $2.00 billion, or 80 cents per share, down 19.2 percent for the latter, but in line with estimates.