Comcast earnings blow past estimates, driven by film business success

Key Points
  • Comcast reports first-quarter earnings of 53 cents per share adjusted vs. the expected 44 cents.
  • Revenue was $20.463 billion vs. the estimate of $20.124 billion, according to analysts.
  • The company says its growth was fueled largely by successes in its film business and NBCUniversal division.
Brian Roberts: 'Exhilarating time' for Comcast
Brian Roberts: 'Exhilarating time' for Comcast

Comcast reported first-quarter earnings and revenue Thursday that beat expectations, as the global telecommunications conglomerate grew its video subscription base and boosted sales in its film business.

Here's what the company reported vs. what the Street was expecting:

  • EPS: 53 cents adjusted vs. estimate of 44 cents, according to Thomson Reuters.
  • Revenue: $20.463 billion vs. estimate of $20.124 billion, according to analysts.

Shares of Comcast closed up 2 percent on Thursday.

Comcast reported a 20 percent increase in net income for the quarter, up to $2.57 billion from $2.13 billion a year earlier. It said earnings climbed by more than 23 percent, driven by growth in cable, particularly its NBCUniversal division.

"2017 is off to the fastest start in five years," CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. "These impressive results were fueled by exceptionally strong film performance, increased affiliate and retransmission revenues at our TV businesses, and continued growth in Theme Parks."

Revenue in Comcast's cable business rose 5.8 percent, as the media company added 42,000 video subscribers and 429,000 broadband subscribers in the quarter.

Sales of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC, rose 14.7 percent, fueled by a 43.2 percent increase in filmed entertainment revenue, the company said. Movies such as "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Get Out" have been especially profitable for the company thus far in 2017.

"This is probably the best quarter [NBCUniversal has] had since we've owned the company," Roberts told CNBC's "Squawk Box" after the earnings report was released. Many of Comcast's cable networks are now "must-have programming" for a number of distributors, he added.

Wall Street is now monitoring whether Comcast could face more intense competition if telecom competitor AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner is approved by regulators. AT&T has said it expects approval this year.

Earlier this month, amid heightened dealmaking activity in the telecom sector, Verizon Communications Chief Executive Lowell McAdam said he is open to discussing the possibility of merging his company with Comcast, Disney or CBS, according to Bloomberg.

In the CNBC interview Thursday, Roberts said he is "content" with the company: "There's a lot of things we want to work through. ... We're on a great track."

With more millennials cutting the cord on cable television and switching to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, Comcast hopes its new Xfinity Instant TV plan, priced as low as $15 per month, will reel more subscribers into the network.

"We think we're pretty well-positioned for the [cable] revolution," Roberts told CNBC, saying he thinks it's an "exhilarating time" to be in the media business.

As of Thursday's close, Comcast's Class A shares have risen 29 percent over the past 12 months and are up more than 14 percent for the year-to-date period.

CMCSA 12-month performance 

Source: FactSet

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.