Comcast said its quarterly profit soared 55 percent, lifted by its booming broadband and wireless businesses even as its NBCUniversal unit’s theme parks and TV networks continued to get hammered by the pandemic.
The cable-TV giant also gave investors a peek into its nascent streaming business, Peacock, which launched in July. The company said its media segment, which includes Peacock, broadcast and cable TV, saw revenue increase just over 3 percent to $5.04 billion.
Overall, the Philadelphia-based company, which operates NBCUniversal, Universal Studios and Universal Pictures in addition to its namesake cable-TV service, posted a profit of $3.33 billion, or 71 cents a share, beating analysts’ estimates of 58 cents. Revenue rose more than 2 percent to $27.21 billion.
At NBCUniversal, Comcast’s business that has been hardest-hit by the pandemic, revenue sank 9 percent to $7.02 billion. The company’s theme parks unit, Universal Studios, got walloped with revenue tumbling 33 percent. Excluding pre-opening costs linked to its Beijing resort, the division managed to break even.
Meanwhile, at NBCU’s film and TV studios, revenue slid 0.6 percent to $2.4 billion, as Hollywood production and the movie theater industry is still hamstrung by the coronavirus.
The company said Peacock hit 42 million sign-ups, due in part to the recent addition of the WWE Network and Steve Carrell sitcom, “The Office.” Peacock declined to provide a breakdown of customers. Customers can either watch Peacock for free with ads or sign up for a premium, ad-free version for $4.99 a month.
It’s unclear how many customers are paying. Peacock’s premium version is free to Comcast pay-TV and broadband customers as well as Cox Communications consumers.
Comcast’s high-speed broadband internet has benefitted during the pandemic as more consumers are working from home. During the quarter, Comcast added 461,000 new broadband customers. The company’s cellphone business, Xfinity Mobile, also logged a record quarter with 278,000 new customers, due in part to new multiline discount offers.
But it wasn’t all rosy for Comcast, which continued to lose pay-TV subscribers as more customers opt to stream content. The firm said it lost 491,000 TV subscribers during the first quarter.
Nonetheless, Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said the company is “off to a great start in 2021,” even as NBCU is slowly “recovering” from COVID-related fallout and “increasing momentum.”
“Our entire company performed well across the board, highlighted by another strong performance from cable, which posted … the most quarterly customer relationships in our company’s history,” he said.