Wall Street was counting on Comcast to end the year on a positive video subscriber note and the company delivered, finishing the year up more than 160,000 video customers, fueled by a strong fourth quarter.
Analysts had expected Comcast, which has been steadily reducing its video customer losses for years, to finally move into the black in 2016. With a strong Q4 -- it added 80,000 video subscribers in the period -- Comcast beat most analyst expectations, which were for gains in the 100,000 subscriber range.
It was the first time a major publicly traded cable company reported positive video subscriber growth for a full year in a decade. And it comes at a time when pressure from over-the-top competitors has eroded growth at other distributors.
Those video gains helped drive revenue up 7.1% cash flow up 6.4% at the cable unit in the quarter. Overall revenue rose 9.2% in Q4 while cash flow was up 7.8%. For the full year, cable revenue rose 6.6% while overall revenue rose 7.9%.
"I look back on 2016 with pride and enthusiasm," Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. "This is a special company, with a team I am delighted to work with, executing at a high level. We're pleased to report another year of strong financial and operational results, which reflect our focus on innovation, investing in the business and putting the customer first. Our performance at Comcast Cable was exceptionally strong. We grew operating cash flow 5.6%, added 161,000 video subscribers, the best video customer results in a decade, and delivered our best high-speed Internet customer results in nine years. NBCUniversal also had a terrific year, fueled by the tremendous success of the Olympics, the opening of new attractions at our theme parks, and strong theatrical performances, particularly in animation. The consistency and strength of our results enables us to announce that we are increasing our dividend by 15% per share, we will split our stock two-for-one, the twelfth split in our company's history, and we expect to repurchase $5 billion of our stock this year. As we begin 2017, we are well positioned to continue driving growth and shareholder value as we embark on the opportunities ahead."