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Comcast Earnings Top Estimates, Boosted by Cable, Theme Parks

Comcast reported earnings that modestly edged Wall Street analysts' estimates on Wednesday, driven by gains in its cable and theme park businesses.

After the earnings announcement, the media conglomerate saw its shares traded higher. (Click here to get the latest quotes for Comcast.)

The largest U.S. cable provider posted fourth-quarter earnings excluding items of 51 cents per share, versus 45 cents per share in the year-ago period. Revenue rose to $15.310 billion from $14.88 billion a year ago.

Analysts had expected the company to report a profit of 50 cents per share on $15.38 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

"It was a really strong quarter across the board ... on most metrics. We've been increasing free cash flow throughout the year," Brian L. Roberts, Comcast chairman and chief executive, told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

The CEO, whose company owns of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com, said that "the whole year is off to a great start. We grew cash flow 7.4 percent, which is one metric I always dial in on. And across NBC and cable, both got out of the blocks very fast."

Price increases on cable TV helped boost numbers, as subscribers paid an average of $3.40 more per month compared to the same period last year.

"We raised more adjusted rates in the first quarter than we did in the prior couple of year's first quarter. That always has an effect on our balance between customers and rate," Roberts said.

"But in the grand total of revenue-generating units, which is an important metric to look at, (we) added 583,000 customers between video losses, high-speed data and telephone. And video revenue was the best in the last four years in the first quarter," he added.

The Comcast Center building, which houses Comcast headquarters, in Philadelphia.
Bradly C. Bower | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Comcast Center building, which houses Comcast headquarters, in Philadelphia.

Comcast also continued to recruit new broadband and phone customers at a brisk pace, and broke 10 million phone customers for the first time in the quarter. It's the country's fourth-largest home phone company, behind AT&T, Verizon Communications, and CenturyLink.

"High-speed data continue to be a standout. Triple play is working for us. We had 8 percent more take rate in this quarter than we did last year," Roberts said. "And ... over 40 percent now of all our customers take three products. And 70 percent take two products."

Comcast's revenue didn't grow as fast as usual because it broadcast the Super Bowl last year but didn't this year. Excluding that effect, revenue would have grown 4.7 percent, it said.

Comcast lost 60,000 cable-TV subscribers, breaking a trend of slowing losses. However, it's still better than smaller cable companies at keeping customers in the face of competition from satellite and phone companies.

In February, Comcast bought General Electric's entire 49 percent common equity stake in NBCUniversal for approximately $16.7 billion.

At NBCUniversal, revenue fell 2.4 percent compared to last year's quarter, when NBC aired the Super Bowl. CBS aired it this year. However, NBCUniversal's operating cash flow, a measure of profitability, rose.

Theme park revenue jumped 12.2 percent to to $462 million from $412 million in the year-earlier quarter, benefiting, in part, from the timing of holidays, the company said.

"Theme parks have been a standout ever since we came together with Comcast and NBCUniversal," Roberts said.

AP and Reuters contributed to this report.

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