Comcast release its Q4 results today which narrowly beat Wall Street’s expectations, and showed that the company is still managing to grow income from cable TV sales and some of its ad revenue streams, despite the impact of cord-cutting. Strong growth of Comcast’s high speed internet and film production arms, as well as the recent US tax cuts were cited at the main drivers of the increase in revenue, though the telecoms operator also hailed a successful year for NBCUniversal’s TV operations.
Comcast’s consolidated revenue reached $21.92 bn in Q4 last year, a 4.2 percent increase compared to Q4 2016. This narrowly beat out the market forecast of $21.82 billion revenue according to Thomson Reuters, and brings total consolidated revenue for last year to $84.5 bn, growth of 5.1 percent compared to 2016.
NBCUniversal specifically grew 4.4 percent last year, or 10.1 percent when discounting 2016’s Olympic Games, for which NBC held broadcast rights.
A breakdown of results show that it’s not simply a case of Comcast’s internet and film divisions propping up TV, but cable TV sales revenue itself has grown, despite a loss of subscribers.
In Q4 last year the company added 350,000 new customers to it’s high-speed internet service, bringing the total annual sign ups to over one million for the twelfth consecutive year. However, in Q4 alone, 33,000 Comcast customers cancelled their cable TV subscriptions, compared to 80,000 additions a year earlier.
But despite the loss of subscribers, cable TV revenue still grew compared to Q4 2016, which Comcast attributed to rates adjustments, and an increase in the number of customers signed up to additional services. For now at least, it seems Comcast is managing the negate the impact of cord-cutting by convincing remaining customers subscribe to more expensive, premium video packages.
Cord-cutting and competition from online streaming services has hit Comcast’s ad sales too, since viewing figures for both its cable and broadcast channels have continues to fall. However higher ad prices have managed to offset these lower ratings, and Q4 ad revenue actually grew by 2.3 percent across the company’s cable channels compared to 2016, though it fell across broadcast channels by 6.5 percent.
Comcast seems to be weathering the cord-cutting storm for now. Looking ahead, comments from Comcast’s CEO and Chairman Brian L. Roberts suggests the company sees sports content as key for for driving both subscriptions and ad sales. He was particularly keen to highlight Comcast’s sports offering, and what he sees as it’s particular advantages in sports broadcasting.
“We are excited to have the Super Bowl on NBC, followed by the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang. The Olympics highlight our strengths and capabilities across Comcast NBCUniversal, as we combine the storytelling of NBC with Comcast technology to create a truly spectacular viewing experience,” he said in a statement accompanying the results.