PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable TV provider, said Thursday that first-quarter earnings rose by 6 percent as the company signed up throngs of new customers for its digital cable, phone and high-speed Internet services.
The Philadelphia-based company earned $772 million, or 27 cents per share, compared with a profit of $732 million, or 24 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. Revenue rose by 5 percent to $8.84 billion.
The results beat the expectations of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, who on average were expecting 23 cents per share in profit and revenue of $8.76 billion.
Comcast said cost-conscious consumers pulled back somewhat on pay-per-view purchases and watched more free video-on-demand in the quarter. But there weren't big cancellations of premium channels such as HBO or Showtime. The company also picked up some customers who had been getting TV broadcasts over the air and switched to cable in preparation for the analog TV shutdown in June.
Comcast's average revenue per customer came to $115.27 per month, up 8 percent. Some of the gain came from Comcast's video services, where Comcast has raised prices and lured customers into digital cable packages and leases of high-definition digital video recorders. Video revenue rose 3 percent to $4.9 billion.
High-speed Internet took in nearly 329,000 new customers – two-thirds coming from phone companies' slower DSL lines – while phone subscribers grew by almost 300,000, also reflecting defections from phone companies. High-speed Internet revenue rose by 9 percent to $1.9 billion, while phone revenue was up 32 percent to $777 million.
Comcast's advertising revenue fell by 25 percent in the quarter to $262 million, with particular weakness in auto and financial ads, a lament being heard in many media companies.
See The Wall Street Journal’s coverage of Comcast’s Q1 earnings here.
Meanwhile, without a last-minute agreement, today will be the last day for Comcast cable-TV customers to view the 24-hour NFL Network.
Comcast and the National Football League are in a court battle over how the provider carries the network. Their agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. today.
Comcast said in a statement it is willing to carry the channel under the present terms while the litigation goes on, but the NFL hasn't accepted the offer.
NFL Network spokesman Dennis Johnson told The Philadelphia Inquirer the network is willing to talk, but as of now will no longer be available to Comcast at midnight.
Comcast wants the channel in a $7-a-month sports package, while the NFL wants it available at no extra charge.