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NBCU Reports Higher Q4 Profit on Cable Gains

NBCUniversal reported higher profit in the fourth quarter, driven by a strong performance at its cable networks.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were $1.9 billion, up 5.4% from a year ago, according to parent company Comcast, which reported a big gain in earnings from tax benefits and increased the dividend on its stock.

NBCU’s revenue rose 3.9% to $8.8 billion in the fourth quarter

Earnings at NBC’s broadcast television operations fell 26.3% to $194 million in the fourth quarter because of higher programming and production costs, driven by higher sports costs.

Broadcast revenue was up 4.1% to 3 billion. Distribution and content licensing were up but advertising revenue was down 6.5%, reflecting lower ratings.

Earnings from NBCU cable networks were up 9.1% to $10 billion. Revenue increased 7.5% to $2.7 billion. Distribution revenue was up 6.7%, content licensing revenue increased 34.5%, and advertising revenue was up 2.3%.

Comcast’s fourth-quarter net income jumped more than 500% to $15 billion, or $3.17 a share, from $2.23 billion, or 48 cents, a year ago.

The earnings included $12.7 billion in income tax benefits as a result of the recently passed tax law. Excluding the tax benefits and other adjustments, earnings per share were up 8.9% to 49 cents a share from 45 cents a year ago.

Revenue rose 4.2% to $21 billion.

The cable giant also increased its dividend by 21% to 76 cents per share per year and said it plans to purchase at least $5 billion of its common stock during 2018.

The company lost 33,000 video customers but it added 350,000 high-speed internet customers and total residential relationships increased by 211,000.

Cable revenue rose 3.4% to $13.2 billion, and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose 4.2% to $5.4 billion.

“I am exceptionally proud of our performance this past year, and we enter 2018 with significant momentum,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said. "In 2017, we achieved strong financial and operational results while also delivering new innovations, experiences and must-see content to people around the world. At [Comcast] Cable, our best-in-class products and continued focus on the customer experience drove healthy EBITDA growth balanced with strong customer relationship net additions.

“At NBCUniversal, our film business achieved record profitability, our theme parks delivered record attendance, and our TV business produced strong results - demonstrating the power of our sports, news and entertainment content," Roberts continued. "We are excited to have the Super Bowl on NBC, followed by the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang. The Olympics highlight our strengths and capabilities across Comcast NBCUniversal, as we combine the storytelling of NBC with Comcast technology to create a truly spectacular viewing experience. Overall, we feel great about our company and our positioning as we head into the year. Our confidence in the business enables us to announce, with the support of our board, a 21% increase in our dividend, which is our 10th consecutive annual increase. We also expect to repurchase at least $5 billion of our stock in 2018.” 

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.