By William Launder
Comcast Corp.'s (CMCSK, CMCSA) first-quarter profit gained 30% as the cable and television network operator benefited from broadcasting the Super Bowl on NBCUniversal and continued growth at its core video and broadband units.
The Philadelphia-based company continued to shed video subscribers, but said the rate of subscriber defections slowed for the sixth consecutive quarter to 37,000, a 5% improvement.
Comcast and its peers have struggled in recent years with a slowdown in their traditional cable television businesses because of a weak economy and more viewers reducing or canceling video packages in favor of Internet-based services.
Faced with ongoing video-subscriber losses, cable companies including Comcast are focusing more attention on their broadband and commercial services businesses, which tend to be more profitable because they aren't burdened by television programming costs.
Comcast said it added 439,0000 residential broadband subscribers during the first quarter, a 5% increase. But new voice subscribers fell off to 164,000, down 37% from a year earlier.
NBC presented the biggest source of growth for Comcast during the quarter, with revenue increasing 18% to $5.47 billion.
Comcast is attempting to revive the historically low-rated network, following its acquisition of a majority stake in January 2011. Revenue from NBC's broadcast television unit increased 37% during the quarter, helped by NBC's carriage of the Super Bowl and hit shows like "The Voice." Revenue from filmed entertainment was up 22.3% on strong box-office results for movies including "The Lorax."
Overall, Comcast booked a profit of $1.22 billion, compared to $943 million a year earlier. On a pro forma basis, excluding the costs of the NBC Universal transaction, per-share earnings rose to 45 cents from 36 cents a year earlier; beating analysts expectations of 42 cents.
Total revenue increased 23% to $14.88 billion, or by 9.6%, after accounting for the NBC acquisition. The top-line figure beat analyst's expectations of $14.43 billion.
Revenue from video subscriptions increased 1.6% to $4.97 billion, while broadband revenue grew 10.3% to $2.32 billion.
Revenue from business services--a growing market for Comcast that includes video, telephone and Internet services for small companies--increased 37% to $541 million.
Comcast class A shares closed 0.8% higher Tuesday at $30.60; the shares are up 17% over the past year.
-By William Launder, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3412; email@example.com