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Comcast posts 9% profit increase despite a drag from its new broadcast TV unit

At NBCUniversal, which the cable giant acquired a majority stake in, revenue fell 11.5% largely because it didn't have any Olympic coverage in the first quarter as it did in the same quarter of 2010.

May 04, 2011|By Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times

Cable giant Comcast Corp. got a rude welcome into the world of broadcast television.

In unveiling its first financial results since closing a deal in late January to take a majority stake in NBCUniversal, Comcast on Tuesday reported strong earnings from its newly acquired cable networks — including USA, MSNBC and Bravo — but the broadcast network NBC had a tough first quarter.

Overall, Comcast posted net income of $943 million for the three months ended March 31. That's a 9% gain compared with the same quarter last year. Revenue at the Philadelphia cable and programming behemoth rose almost 32% to $12.1 billion.

At NBCUniversal, revenue fell 11.5% to $4.3 billion. The broadcast network NBC saw its revenue plummet about 35% to $1.4 billion. Last year, NBC broadcast the Winter Olympics from Vancouver, Canada, an advertiser-friendly event that produced nearly $800 million in revenue and strong ratings for the network. Comcast said the lack of Olympic programming during the first three months of this year made for unfavorable comparisons. Comcast noted that if the Olympics were left out of the comparison, NBC's revenue would have been up 4.3%

Still, the Olympics ended up to be a major money loser for NBCUniversal and General Electric, which now owns 49% of NBC Universal. They ended up about $220 million in the red.

One of Comcast's key decisions in the coming months is how aggressively to bid on the broadcast rights for the 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games. NBC already has committed $1.1 billion to next year's Summer Olympics in London.

Another disappointment for Comcast was the 8% drop in revenue to $975 million from its Hollywood movie studio, Universal Pictures. Its releases during the quarter — "Paul," "The Dilemma" and "The Adjustment Bureau" — underperformed.

On the bright side, the NBCUniversal cable networks delivered another strong quarter as revenue jumped 13.3% to $2 billion.

Comcast continues to rake in about two-thirds of its revenue from its cable TV, high-speed Internet and telephone services. For the quarter, those business units saw revenue increase about 6% to $9.1 billion. The growth came from more broadband and phone customers as well as "rate adjustments."

Comcast's overall number of cable subscribers fell to 22.8 million from 23.5 million. Many cable operators have seen decreases in subscriptions, which has been attributed to both the economy and customers switching to online entertainment.

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