NBCUniversal Cash Flow Up 14% in Fourth Quarter

Comcast said NBCUniversal had a double-digit increase in cash flow in the fourth quarter as Thursday Night Football boosted revenues.

NBCU’s operating cash flow rose 14% to $1.8 billion.

Revenue rose 13% to $8.5 billion

Broadcast cash flow increased 21.1% to $264 million despite higher costs associated with the premiere of Thursday Night Football.

Broadcast revenue was up 14% to $2.8 billion. Advertising revenue increased 12.4% thanks to Thursday Night Football and increased political advertising. Content licensing increased 20.2% and distribution revenue was up 14.1% because of higher retransmission payments.

Cable cash flow rose 2.4% to $916 million as revenue growth was partially offset by increases in programming and production costs, the company said.

Cable revenues rose 4% to $2.5 billion. Distribution revenue increased 4.7% despite a decline in subscribers. Advertising revenue was up 0.6% as higher prices offset ratings declines.

Comcast said fourth-quarter net income rose 16% to $2.3 billion, or 95 cents a share, from $2 billion, or 79 cents a share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 9.2% to $21 billion.

The company added 258,000 customer relationships. At a time when cord-cutting is top of mind, Comcast said it added 80,000 video customers. High-speed internet customers increased by 385,000.

Related: AT&T Sheds 262K U-verse TV Subs, Adds 235K Satellite TV Subs in Q4

The company increased its dividend 15% to $1.26 per year. It also declared a 2-for-1 stock split payable on Feb. 17. It increased its stock repurchase program to $12 billion and expects to buy $5 billion worth of common stock during 2017.

Comcast’s earnings and revenues exceeded Wall Street forecasts.

“I look back on 2016 with pride and enthusiasm. This is a special company, with a team I am delighted to work with, executing at a high level,” said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts (pictured).

"We’re pleased to report another year of strong financial and operational results, which reflect our focus on innovation, investing in the business and putting the customer first. Our performance at Comcast Cable was exceptionally strong. We grew operating cash flow 5.6%, added 161,000 video subscribers, the best video customer results in a decade, and delivered our best high-speed Internet customer results in nine years,” Roberts said.

“NBCUniversal also had a terrific year, fueled by the tremendous success of the Olympics, the opening of new attractions at our theme parks, and strong theatrical performances, particularly in animation,” he added. “The consistency and strength of our results enables us to announce that we are increasing our dividend by 15% per share, we will split our stock two-for-one, the twelfth split in our company’s history, and we expect to repurchase $5 billion of our stock this year. As we begin 2017, we are well positioned to continue driving growth and shareholder value as we embark on the opportunities ahead.”

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.