Comcast Adds 6,000 Video Subscribers in Latest Quarter

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Comcast Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts speaks during a news conference.
Comcast Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts speaks during a news conference. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Comcast, the cable company awaiting approval to acquire Time Warner Cable, reported fourth-quarter profit that missed analysts' estimates after signing up fewer TV and internet customers than a year earlier.

The company signed up 6,000 video subscribers, down from the 46,000 added a year earlier. Analysts had estimated the company would add an average of 25,000 video customers.

Comcast signed up 375,000 new broadband customers in the quarter, down 0.8% from the previous year's gain. The company had expected to add 384,000 internet customers, according to an average of four analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The average monthly bill rose 4.8% to $139.95 a month.

The company is trying to add broadband customers as the number of people signing up for TV packages slows. But more video programming is being offered through online services, such as Netflix and Amazon, prompting consumers to cancel their TV packages.

Earnings were 77 cents a share excluding some items, the Philadelphia-based company said Tuesday in a statement. Analysts had projected 78 cents, the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Regulators have taken a tougher stance on how Comcast and other broadband providers manage their networks, raising investor concerns about Comcast's proposed $45.2 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable. The deal would combine the biggest and second-biggest U.S. cable companies, respectively.

NBC Universal
Comcast is trying to hold on to video customers by marketing its X1 set-top box, which allows customers to store recorded TV shows in the cloud and watch them on mobile devices.

Revenue at Comcast's NBC Universal group, which includes the NBC broadcast network, cable channels such as USA and MSNBC and the Universal film studio, rose 2.3% to $6.62 billion.

NBC has increased the fees it charges pay-TV providers to carry its content in an effort to offset advertising declines caused by lower ratings.

NBC's news division this month suspended anchor Brian Williams for six months after finding that he had exaggerated his account of a 2003 reporting assignment in Iraq. The controversy could hurt ratings and advertising revenue.

The film division, which includes the Universal Pictures studio, generated $1.3 billion in sales, down 11% from a year earlier, when the studio was bolstered by DVD sales of "Despicable Me 2."

Net neutrality
The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Thursday on a proposal that would give the agency more authority to bar internet-service providers from blocking or slowing web traffic. Comcast has opposed the new so-called net-neutrality regulations, saying they would deter investment in broadband networks.

Comcast said it will increase its quarterly dividend by 11 percent to 25 cents a share. The company plans to repurchase $4.25 billion in shares this year and has authorized $10 billion in such buybacks.

Fourth-quarter net income rose 0.6% to $1.93 billion, or 74 cents a share, from $1.91 billion, or 72 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue increased 4.8% to $17.7 billion, driven by increases in political advertising and business services.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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