Comcast, the largest cable company in the US, reported a 30 per cent profit increase in the first quarter, beating expectations on the strength of Super Bowl advertising and its popular broadband service. It reported that its net income rose to $1.22 billion between January and March, up from $943 million in the same period a year ago.
Revenue rose to $14.9 billion, a 9.6 per cent increase against the combined cable and NBC Universal results from a year ago. Comcast’s acquisition of a majority stake in NBC Universal closed at the end of January 2011.
NBC Universal’s results shone in the quarter. It accounts for a third of Comcast’s revenue, but grew much faster — at 18 per cent compared to last year. Revenue at the NBC broadcast network grew 37 per cent thanks to the Super Bowl, which Fox broadcast in 2011.
Excluding the Super Bowl, NBC’s revenue grew 17 per cent, helped by improving prime-time ratings and shows such as “The Voice” and “Smash.”
Comcast’s more predictable cable business revenue grew at lower pace — 5.7 per cent from last year.
CEO Brian Roberts has suggested that Comcast might be able to reverse the long-standing industrywide trend of cable TV subscribers cancelling in favor of TV service from satellite and telephone companies, but that prospect was not in evidence in the first-quarter results: Comcast lost 37,000 cable subscribers, roughly the same number it lost in the same quarter last year.
“We believe we can continue to make steady progress” in retaining video subscribers, Roberts told analysts on a conference call Wednesday.
As one of its improvements, Roberts mentioned Streampix, a Netflix-like web-based video service that Comcast launched in February, only for its video customers. The company added 439,000 Internet subscribers, its best quarterly result in four years.