Comcast beats earnings expectations, adding 350,000 high-speed internet customers

  • Comcast reports quarterly earnings that beat analysts' expectations.
  • Revenue topped estimates, as well.
  • Comcast also announces plans to increase its dividend by 21 percent and to repurchase at least $5 billion in stock in 2018.
Brian Roberts, CEO, Comcast
Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters
Brian Roberts, CEO, Comcast

Consumers may be cutting the cord, but Comcast's bets on high-speed internet and film franchises are providing fresh sources of growth.

The media and cable giant reported quarterly earnings on Wednesday that beat analyst expectations, and revenue that topped estimates, as the company grew its customer base in high-speed internet and business services, offsetting lost customers in video services.

It also announced plans to increase its dividend by 21 percent and to repurchase at least $5 billion in stock in 2018.

Here's how the company did in the fourth quarter:

  • EPS: 49 cents per share, adjusted vs. 47 cents expected by Thomson Reuters.
  • Revenue: $21.92 billion vs. $21.82 billion expected by a Thomson Reuters.

A year earlier, Comcast reported adjusted earnings of 45 cents per share on revenue of $21.03 billion.

Shares were flat in Wednesday's premarket after the announcement.

The financial results of the owner of CNBC parent NBCUniversal set the stage for rivals that are also exploring combinations of content and internet services.

Cable and internet business

Comcast's Xfinity is one of the biggest residential providers of video, internet and phone. Comcast now has 29.3 million customers.

Comcast added 350,000 high-speed internet customers during the quarter, slightly less than a year earlier, but still the largest source of sales growth for the company. But 33,000 video customers left during the quarter, a change Comcast attributed to more "aggressive" offers from traditional and emerging competitors.

Still, it's better than analysts expected. Comcast was expected to lose 45,000 video subscribers and gain 312,000 high-speed internet customers, according to a FactSet consensus estimate. Comcast lost 13,000 voice customers during the quarter, narrower than the 23,000 customer loss forecast by FactSet.

Media business

NBC's film division had its most profitable year ever in its 105-year history, the company said Wednesday. In addiiton, Universal Pictures hit $5 billion at the global box office over the holidays for the second time ever. But during the quarter, film revenue dropped by about 5 percent, despite hits like "Fate of the Furious," "Despicable Me 3" and the latest installment of "Pitch Perfect."

Theme parks, broadcast and cable networks also saw revenue increases from a year earlier, thanks to new attractions at the parks and distribution and content licensing.

The company has a big quarter ahead in media, with the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics next month.

Comcast's earnings is closely watched in the media industry. The combination of content and the "pipes" to deliver it is something that other companies are exploring as well: Verizon has Yahoo and AOL, and now Time Warner and AT&T hope to seal a merger deal. Disney and Twenty-First Century Fox are also joining forces.

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