Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable-TV provider, posted third-quarter earnings that beat analysts' estimates as it continues to reverse an industrywide trend of cord-cutting.
The company added 32,000 cable-TV customers in the period, its best third-quarter in a decade, according to a statement Wednesday. Profit excluding some items was 92 cents a share, beating analysts' average estimate by a penny.
Comcast is persuading users to stick with cable by offering a new video platform, called X1, that makes it easier to search for shows and movies and even lets subscribers access their Netflix shows from their cable set-top box. The moves, which included a deal with Netflix, are helping Comcast defy the conventional wisdom that online video options are causing interest in cable to wane. Video user additions in the period trounced the 1,666 average projection of analysts.
"These results should once again keep the cord-cutting bears at bay, at least temporarily," said Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. Comcast has demonstrated "the solid fundamentals of its video, broadband and content businesses," he said.
To attract more video customers, Comcast plans to start selling prepaid TV and internet service to people who normally wouldn't qualify by waiving rules requiring a credit check or signed contract. In April, Comcast, the parent of Universal Pictures, agreed to buy DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. for $3.8 billion.
Comcast signed up 330,000 high-speed internet customers, its best third-quarter in seven years, topping analysts' predictions of about 312,500.
Revenue at the Comcast's NBC Universal group, which includes the NBC broadcast network, cable channels such as USA and MSNBC, the Universal film studio and theme parks, grew 5.7% to $7.56 billion excluding the Rio Olympics. Including the Olympics, revenue jumped 28% to $9.18 billion.
Total cable network revenue excluding the Olympics gained 4.1%. Including the games, they climbed 22%.
The film unit generated $1.79 billion in revenue during the quarter, down 7.9% from a year earlier, a tough comparison because Universal's blockbuster movie "Jurassic World" was in theaters at the time.
Revenue rose 14% to $21.3 billion in the quarter, topping analysts' estimates of $21.2 billion. Net income for the quarter was $2.24 billion, up 12% from a year earlier. The average monthly customer bill climbed 3.6% to $148.47. Revenue in the business services division, which sells phone, web and video services to companies, rose 16% to $1.4 billion.
-- Bloomberg News