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NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock had 42 million signups in the first quarter — up from the 33 million it reported three months ago — benefiting from the recent addition of exclusive domestic streaming rights to WWE Network and The Office.
Parent Comcast posted a major earnings beat with EPS of $0.71, up 54% from the year earlier, on revenue of $27.5 billion, up 2.5%, blowing past Wall Street estimates. The stock popped higher on the numbers, up 2.7% in early trade.
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In a nutshell, the sprawling conglom saw a high-speed internet bonanza but lost video subscribers on the cable side; at NBCU, Covid-smacked theme park and theatrical revenue was grim but improving for obvious reasons, but lower costs inflated studio profits; media segment sales were up but earnings slightly off — in part on Peacock-driven production and programing expenses.
Media included $91 million of revenue and and a loss of $277 million related to Peacock, compared to a loss of $59 million loss the prior year.
The service has a free tier for Comcast subscribers and premium tiers for $5 or $10 a month. Comcast didn’t break out the new signups.
CEO Brian Roberts said Comcast is “off to a great start in 2021.”
“Our entire company performed well across the board, highlighted by another strong performance from cable… and increasing momentum at NBCUniversal and Sky,” he said. Theme parks, he noted, once again reached breakeven — excluding Universal Beijing Resort pre-opening costs.
The parks are mostly back in business since Universal Studios Hollywood reopened on April 16. However, the division still took a massive hit last quarter with revenue down 33% and EBITDA (operating income) plunging by 170%.
Cable Communications, Comcast’s biggest segment by far, saw revenue grow 5.9% to $15.8 billion in the first quarter driven by increases in broadband, wireless, business services and ad revenue. Total customer relationships increased by 380,000 to 33.5 million — although it did 491,000 net video subscribers as per the industry trend.
At NBCUniversal, revenue dipped 9% to $7 billion, operating income fell 12% to $1.5 billion.
Studios sales were off slightly (down 0.6%) at $2.4 billion. Lower theatrical revenue was offset in part by content licensing.
Theatrical revenue plunged nearly 90% as movies were pushed back with theaters either still shut or operating at reduced capacity due to Covid. Content licensing revenue increased 14%.
Studio operating profit jumped 66% to $497 with lower revenue was more than offset by lower operating costs – meaning much less spending on advertising, marketing and promotion because there were so few movies released in theaters.
Media – including the TV business and Peacock – saw ad revenue fell 3.4%, reflecting ratings declines, partially offset by higher pricing and sports volume and ad revenue from Peacock, which hadn’t yet launched in the year-earlier quarter. Distribution revenue rose 9%, driven by contractual rate increases, partially offset by a decline in subscribers.
Total media revenue rose 3.2% to $5 billion. Profit dipped 3.7% to $1.5 on higher programming and production expenses primarily driven by amortization of content at Peacock.
Revenue for Sky increased 10.6% to $5 billion. Profits plunged nearly 40% on higher programming and production expenses —
reflecting higher sports programming costs on more events. There were also higher costs associated with growth in Sky’s residential mobile and broadband businesses.