Somewhere between net neutrality debates, customer service snafus and its ill-fated takeover bid of Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corp. found time to turn a profit in the first quarter of 2015. The Philadelphia cable and media giant reported first-quarter financial results Monday morning, beating analysts’ estimates with another quarter of double-digit profit growth.
Comcast reported net income of $2.1 billion, or 81 cents per share, an increase of 14.1 percent from $1.87 billion, or 71 cents per share, for the same three-month period last year. Excluding adjustments, EPS increased 16.2 percent to 79 cents. Quarterly revenue ticked up 2.9 percent to $17.9 billion, compared to $17.41 billion for the year-earlier period.
Analysts expected EPS of 74 cents on flat revenue of $17.41 billion. Comcast has delivered double-digit earnings growth for at least the last seven consecutive quarters.
Like all cable operators, Comcast has been struggling with an exodus of video subscribers who are either trimming back their service plans or cutting the cable cord completely. But the hemorrhaging has slowed down considerably since 2013, when Comcast lost 267,000 video subscribers. In the first quarter, Comcast reported a net loss of 8,000 video subscribers.
Meanwhile, Comcast’s broadband subscriber base continues to boom. The company reported a net gain of 407,000 broadband subscribers in the quarter. Revenue from Comcast’s high-speed Internet business grew 10.7 percent, its strongest rate of growth in four years.
On the media side, Comcast's NBCUniversal unit continued to struggle with viewership challenges. A recent analysis of Nielsen data from MoffettNathanson estimated a 16 percent drop in ratings across the division’s cable networks, which include USA, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen and others. On broadcast, NBC faced difficult comparisons to the same period last year, when ratings were booming due to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Universal Pictures, however, had a monster hit in the quarter with “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Released Feb. 14, the big-screen adaptation of the best-selling book earned more than $166 million on a modest production budget of $40 million, Box Office Mojo reported.
Last month, Comcast abandoned its proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable Inc. amid growing resistance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission. The combined companies would have controlled as much as 57 percent of the nation’s broadband market, and regulators were reportedly concerned about giving a single company too much of a gatekeeper role over consumers’ access to the Internet.
The merger bid had no breakup fee and news of its termination had little effect on Comcast’s stock. Analysts from Fitch Ratings last month said Comcast’s credit profile would not be affected by the failed transaction.