Comcast nets record high-speed internet adds, has nearly 22 million Peacock sign-ups

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Comcast on Thursday reported third-quarter earnings that beat analyst estimates on the top and bottom lines. 

Comcast also reported better-than-expected net customer additions for high-speed internet service and further growth to its new streaming service, Peacock.

The stock was positive during premarket trading but pared gains and was up about 1% after markets opened.

Here are the key numbers:

  • Earnings per share: 65 cents, adjusted vs. 52 cents expected, according to Refinitiv survey of analysts
  • Revenue: $25.53 billion vs. $24.74 billion expected, according to Refinitiv
  • High-speed internet customers: 633,000 net adds vs. 534,000 net adds expected, according to FactSet

NBCUniversal’s Peacock now has nearly 22 million sign-ups. The service, which offers free and paid options, had 10 million sign-ups when Comcast last reported earnings in July. Comcast said in its report that Peacock is “proving to be a differentiating factor for customers considering Xfinity broadband and is also improving churn.”

“Peacock has exceeded every internal engagement metric without the benefit of the Olympics or content like The Office (Jan. 2021),” Comcast said.

NBCUniversal kicks off it’s new Peacock streaming service.
Todd Williamson | Peacock | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

The company reported its best quarterly customer results in its history, adding more than 633,000 high-speed internet customers. Cable added more broadband customers in the first nine months of the year than in all of 2019, Comcast reported, including nearly 1 million customers in the second and third quarters.

Comcast said its Europe-based Sky division has continued to add higher-priced customers and reduce churn. Its quarter was strengthened in part by the return of sports, including record Premier League viewership on Sky Sports.

Comcast’s theme parks business, which is part of its NBCUniversal division, has suffered the most during the pandemic as closures and capacity restrictions strain revenue. 

Theme park revenue fell nearly 81% to $311 million, according to the report. Comcast said that excluding theme parks, NBCUniversal earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization grew by 9% year over year. 

California has kept theme parks closed under strict reopening guidelines that allow them to resume operations only after their counties reach a Covid infection rate of less than 1 case per 100,000 residents. Los Angeles County, where Universal Studios Hollywood is located, is currently seeing 11 cases per 100,000, according to the state government’s website. Universal’s parks in Florida and Japan have been able to reopen with limited capacity.

CEO Brian Roberts said on the company’s earnings call that theme parks had been “the single biggest drag on the quarter” for NBCUniversal’s business but that still “some businesses are steadily recovering, given their assumptions of both sports and content production.”

CFO Michael Cavanaugh said he expects the theme park business to break even in 2021 regardless of what happens with its California-based park.

Filmed entertainment has also suffered during the pandemic, which interrupted movie production and theater premieres. Revenue for the segment fell 25% to $1.3 billion. The dip in theatrical revenue was partially offset by increased licensing and home entertainment revenue, including from the at-home release of “Trolls World Tour.”

Comcast’s Universal Pictures struck a deal with AMC Studios in July that could help navigate the changed behaviors of consumers during the pandemic. Under the deal, AMC will show Universal films in its theaters but shorten the window of time before Universal can bring movies to consumers on-demand.

Here’s how Comcast’s divisions did for the quarter:

  • Cable communications accounted for $15 billion in total revenue, up 2.9% year over year
  • Cable networks accounted for $2.7 billion in total revenue, down 1.3%
  • Broadcast television brought in $2.4 billion in total revenue, up 8.3%
  • Filmed entertainment brought in $1.3 billion in total revenue, down 25%
  • Theme parks brought in $311 million in total revenue, down 80.9%

Outlook

Cavanaugh said Comcast expects cable communications EBITDA margins to exceed its previous guidance “by a healthy amount” after seeing strong growth in the first nine months of the year.

Cable networks advertising revenue was down 2.1%, which was “a significant improvement compared to the second quarter, as we benefited from the broadcast of rescheduled sporting events, which is not expected to recur in the fourth quarter,” Cavanaugh said.

While content-licensing has seen a boost for broadcast and cable networks for the first three quarters, Cavanaugh said the fourth quarter would see a double-digit decline of that figure since those sales were concentrated toward the beginning of the year.

For Sky, Cavanaugh said he continues to expect Q3 and Q4 combined EBITDA to be down about 60% due to “the later return of the current season of European football, the shift of other sports programming to the fourth quarter, investments in original programming and higher costs associated with the launch of our new U.K. entertainment channels.” 

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.

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