Broadcast Boosts NBCU’s Fourth-Quarter Earnings

Comcast said that operating cash flow at its NBCUniversal division increased during the fourth quarter with big gains coming at its broadcast TV and filmed entertainment units.

NBCU’s operating cash flow rose 14.3% to $1.3 billion in the fourth quarter. Revenues rose 7.5% to $6.5 billion.

The company’s broadcast television segment, including NBC, recorded a 54.8% increase in operating cash flow to $140 million as increased revenue offset higher costs for programming and promotion in the quarter, when fall shows were launched. Revenues rose 11.5% to $2.2 billion. Advertising revenue was up 8.3% in the quarter due to improved primetime ratings at NBC, the company said. Retransmission fees and content licensing fees were also up.

Operating cash flow rose 3.8% to $929 million at NBCU’s Cable Networks, which include USA Network and Syfy, as increased spending on programming, production and promotion, plus increased sports rights fees, offset gains in revenue. Revenue was up 5.3% to $2.3 billion. Distribution revenue was up 7.8% and ad revenue rose 4.3%.

NBCU’s Filmed Entertainment unit showed a 127% increase in operating cash flow to $192 million as revenues rose 4.9% to $1.4 billion, led by home video sales of Despicable Me 2.

Overall, Comcast’s fourth-quarter net income rose 26% to $1.9 billion, or 72 cents a share, from $1.5 billion, or 56 cents a share.

Revenues rose 6.2% to $16.9 billion

Comcast’s cable operations were boosted by an increase of 43,000 video customers, reversing a downward trend in pay TV subscribers. The company also reported that video, high speed internet and voice customers rose by 649,000, a 29% larger gain than in the year- ago quarter.

The company said it was increasing its dividend 15.4% to 90 cents per share per share. It also said it authorized the repurchase of $7.5 billion in stock and would make $3 billion of those repurchases in 2014.

"I am very pleased to report strong results for the 4th quarter and the full year 2013. Our optimism and confidence in the future is demonstrated by our decision to increase our dividend 15% and our plan to repurchase $3 billion of our stock during 2014,” said Brian Roberts (pictured), chairman and CEO, Comcast Corp., in a statement. “Our results highlight the momentum we have achieved and how we are benefitting from scale, our investment in innovative products, and from our focus on operational excellence. Cable's operating metrics improved across video, high-speed Internet and voice for both the 4th quarter and full year, with a return to video subscriber growth in the 4th quarter. NBCUniversal had an outstanding year, with growth in Broadcast, Cable, Film and Parks. As we begin 2014, we remain excited about our businesses and intend to continue to prudently invest to enhance our strategic differentiation and to drive growth."

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.