Olympics, Cable Ops Help Drive Comcast’s Q3 Results

Cable Unit Posts Eighth Consecutive Quarter of Video Subscriber Improvement

Comcast kicked off the third quarter cable earnings season with another strong performance on the distribution front, reporting its eighth consecutive quarter of reduced video customer losses, while its NBCUniversal programming unit received a healthy boost from the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

Comcast shed about 117,000 video customers in the third quarter,  29% better than the 165,000 subscribers lost in the same period last year, and the eighth straight quarter of improvement. The reduced losses, coupled with a gain of 287,000 high-speed data customers (ahead of the 261,000 added last year) and 123,000 additional voice customers (slightly behind the 133,000 added in 2011) helped drive revenue up 7% to nearly $10 billion and operating cash flow up 7.7% to almost $4 billion.

"The third quarter continues our momentum,” Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. “Cable's results show real strength in every part of the business, producing sustainable and profitable growth while we expand our product offerings, deliver more innovation and continue to transform the customer experience.”

The NBC Universal joint venture got a strong boost from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Revenue for the unit increased 31.2% to $6.8 billion and operating cash flow was up 19.9% to $1.1 billion. Excluding the Summer Games, revenue would have risen 8.3% and OCF would have increased 7.3% in the period.

In a research note, Credit Suisse media analyst Stefan Anninger wrote that the cable results were “solid,” adding that the impact of the Olympics was better than anticipated.