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Comcast revenues rise, losses narrow in Q4

Wed, 02/26/2003 - 7:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner

Comcast Corp., marking the first time its financial results were coupled with operations acquired from AT&T Broadband, recorded fourth quarter pro forma revenues of $4.15 billion, up 11 percent from $3.7 billion in the same-year period. The MSO also recorded a loss of $51 million (3 cents per share), narrowed from a loss of $321 million (34 cents per share) in the year-ago quarter.

For full-year 2002, Comcast had pro forma cable revenues of $16.04 billion, up 11.3 percent from 2001's $14.41 billion.

In the fourth quarter, Comcast said it lost a total of 9,100 subs, a figure that is the difference of 40,600 subscriber gains in Comcast "historical markets" and a loss of 49,700 subs in newly acquired systems. Comcast ended 2002 with 21.3 million cable subs.

On the digital front, Comcast added 1.5 million digital subs in 2002, giving it more than 6.6 million by year-end, and a 20 percent increase over 2001. Comcast said it added 389,400 digital customers in the fourth quarter, with weekly net additions of 30,000.

Comcast said in added about 1.2 million cable modem subs for the year, giving it an aggregate 3.6 million. For the quarter, Comcast added 367,000 high-speed subs.

The MSO said it has made video-on-demand available to about 7.5 million homes and HDTV services available to more than 11 million households. Comcast anticipates that more than half of its customers will have access to HDTV and VOD by the end of 2003.

Comcast clearly indicated that it will continue to place a much higher emphasis on new digital video and data services rather than cable telephony, a major component of AT&T Broadband's former growth strategy.

For the fourth quarter, Comcast added about 76,000 cable telephony subscribers, giving it a total of 1.39 million by the end of 2002. With the folding in of former AT&T Broadband systems, Comcast currently offers cable telephony to about 8.7 million homes.

Comcast said does not plan to expand the availability of traditional constant bit rate cable telephony services in new markets, and expects its base of phone subs to remain flat or drop by as many as 150,000 this year.

As for more advanced IP-based telephony services, Comcast will continue with its deployment in the Philadelphia area, but the company noted that carrier-class VoIP services probably won't be ready for widespread, primetime deployment for another 18 months or so.

Still, Comcast said it will remain committed to upgrading former AT&T Broadband cable properties, tagging $1.2 billion for upgrades alone out of a total $4 billion Comcast has set aside for 2003 cable capital investments. MSO President Stephen Burke said 90 percent of the MSO's newly acquired systems will be upgraded for two-way digital and high-speed services by year-end.

Comcast said those upgrades will help it stem losses in former AT&T Broadband systems, and help it stabilize an aggregate basic sub base of 21.3 million by year's end.

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