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Comcast Q4 Boosted By Cable as NBCU Performance Slips Amid Pandemic

Comcast (Courtesy of AP)

Comcast said fourth-quarter profit increased thanks to customer interest in broadband and wireless services, even as it grappled with a downturn in performance at its large NBCUniversal entertainment conglomerate spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philadelphia cable giant said net income came to $3.38 billion, or 73 cents a share, up from $3.16 billion, or 68 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Revenue fell 2.4% to $27.7 billion. compared with nearly $28.4 billion in the year-earlier period.

The results showed Comcast trying to focus more heavily on technologies that are gaining more adoption from consumers, including broadband services. The company said its Peacock streaming-video hub had seen 33 million “sign-ups” in the U.S. year to date, a metric that does not reveal how many actual subscriptions people bought for the nascent service. Comcast had reported 22 million sign-ups in October.

Like other major media companies, Comcast is grappling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The contagion has forced consumers to stay closer to home, spurring a boom in such things as e-commerce and streaming video subscriptions. At the same time, advertising revenues are in flux as marketers try to figure out how to proceed in an uncertain market, and the movie and theme-park businesses that are pillars of Comcast’s business have been crimped severely.

Revenue at the company’s cable operations increased 6.3% to $15.71 billion, compared with $14.77 billion in the year-earlier period. The company said its total customer relationships for the cable rose by 455,000. High-speed internet customers grew by 538,000. Both figures represented new fourth-quarter records for the company.

But revenue at NBCUniversal was harder to mine. The media unit’s revenue came to $7.5 billion, compared with $9.15 billion in the year-earlier period. Revenue tumbled nearly 63% at the company’s theme-park operations, though Brian Roberts, Comcast’s CEO, said in a statement that the company’s theme parks in Orlando and Osaka had reached “breakeven” status., while analysts were looking for $7.19 billion. The unit was weighed down by the theme park business, which saw revenue slip nearly 63% to $579 million from $1.56 billion, though Chief Executive Brian Roberts said in the earnings release that Comcast “reached breakeven” at its Orlando and Osaka theme parks. Delays in sports events and new series helped spur downturns in revenue at the company’s broadcast and cable operations as well.

Revenue rose 3.3% at the company’s Sky satellite operations, to $5.2 billion. compared with $5 billion in the year-earlier period. Comcast said Sky markets had seen a return to customer growth.

Roberts expressed optimism that performance would improve in months to come. “With the vaccines rolling out throughout the world, we are optimistic that the parts of our business that had been most impacted will soon be back on a path towards growth,” he said in a prepared statement.

Variety's Brian Steinberg contributed to this post.

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