Comcast Reports Higher Earnings, Deflects Merger Talk


Comcast again proved the resilience of the cable business despite the economic downturn, reporting 22 percent growth in third-quarter earnings to 33 cents a share on $8.8 billion in revenue, 3 percent higher than the year-ago quarter.

(Excluding one-time events earnings came in at 28 cents a share, higher than the 25 cents a share analysts expected).

Comcast acknowledged the elephant in the room — its potential deal with NBC Universal — but didn't make any specific comments.

He said that the company doesn't comment on "rumors" but that the company will only look at businesses in Comcast's core business that are "profitable, differentiated, and have the benefits of scale." Seemingly looking to reassure investors, he emphasized the company's discipline and focus on creating shareholder value.

Growth came as promotions helped the company add 361,000 high-speed Internet subscribers in the quarter. Competition with the telecom companies takes its toll, as Comcast continues to lose basic cable subscribers. The good news is that the average per-consumer revenue is growing as subscribers paid more for the same services and added new features.

The cable giant's results provide some insight into Comcast's future and industry trends. Comcast's ad revenue improved from the declines seen in prior quarters, which seems to fit with the trends we're seeing across the industry. And the company says the local cable ad business is stabilizing but still challenging.

Offering content to consumers when and how they want it is a top priority for Comcast. In the question and answer portion of today's conference call COO Steve Burke talked about growing its video-on-demand business. With DVD sales in decline, Burke sees an opportunity in getting video-on-demand content out there closer to theatrical release. Burke also says that one of the biggest problems in V-O-D adoption is awareness: when customers know about it, they use it. In the same vein, Comcast says it plans to launch TV everywhere across its network in December. This system will enable cable subscribers to access password-protected cable content online, on-demand, and keeping cable subscribers paying while leveraging its broadband Internet service.

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