Comcast beats expectations even as broadband growth slows, Peacock racks up losses

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Comcast on Thursday reported fourth quarter earnings that topped analyst expectations despite persistent softness in broadband subscriber growth and mounting losses from its streaming service, Peacock. 

The company's top-line growth was fueled by higher revenue from its broadband and wireless businesses, as well as its theme parks segment. 

Here's how Comcast performed, compared to estimates from analysts surveyed by Refinitiv:

Earnings per share: 82 cents, adjusted, vs. 77 cents expectedRevenue: $30.55 billion vs. $30.32 billion expected.

The Philadelphia company reported Thursday its fourth quarter adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization declined nearly 5% to $8 billion compared to the same period last year, particularly due to higher severance expenses.

Comcast said it lost 26,000 total broadband customers during the period, particularly due to the impact of service interruptions from Hurricane Ian, which struck Florida and South Carolina in September. Excluding the impact of the hurricane, Comcast said it would have added 4,000 customers.

Yet even that number was a sign that cable broadband subscriber growth has slowed – especially compared to the early days of the pandemic. The slowdown in subscriber growth has been hitting the cornerstone business of cable companies like Comcast and Charter Communications in recent quarters as they face heightened competition from telecom and wireless providers.

The companies have also said recently that the U.S. housing market slowdown – and a declining rate of moving between homes – has contributed to the lack of new customers. Still, Comcast's broadband subscriber base has remained stable and revenue for the segment increased nearly 6% during the quarter due in part to price hikes. 

Comcast's Xfinity Mobile continued to grow with 365,000 net additions in the quarter, bringing its total wireless customer count to more than 5.3 million. Mobile customer growth has remained consistent for cable providers since jumping into the business in recent years. 

The cable-TV business lost 440,000 subscribers during the quarter as consumers continue to cut their traditional TV bundles in favor of streaming services. 

Peacock pressure

NBCUniversal saw revenue increase about 6% to roughly $9.9 billion during the fourth quarter, buoyed by revenue from the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which was aired on its Spanish-language Telemundo TV network and Peacock. 

However, Peacock weighed on NBCUniversal's business – which is made up of film, tv, streaming and theme parks – as its adjusted earnings fell more than 36% to $817 million, due to Peacock losses and higher severance expenses.  NBCUniversal recorded an adjusted loss of $978 million related to Peacock compared with a loss of $559 million in the same period last year. 

The company said Thursday that Peacock added 5 million net paying subscribers during the fourth quarter, its best quarterly record since its 2020 launch. Peacock surpassed 20 million paying customers and its revenue nearly tripled to $2.1 billion. 

The theme parks business remained a bright spot for NBCUniversal, with revenue for the segment increasing 12% to $2.1 billion during the fourth quarter, fueled by higher attendance and customer spending at locations in the U.S. and Japan. 

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns CNBC.

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