Comcast Earnings Spotlight the Media Industry’s Upheaval

In a few years, Peacock will have the rights to stream National Football League games on Sunday alongside NBC. That could ruffle feathers with some of NBC’s affiliate stations if viewers drop TV and opt for Peacock to watch football. The streamer will also have some games exclusively.

Peacock can also act as a hedge against other cable operators such as Charter or Cox when Comcast’s media division, NBCUniversal, negotiates carriage fees.

Comcast also sells something that has proved more durable than sports and entertainment: broadband, the piping that carries all streaming platforms. In the first quarter, sales increased 12 percent, to $5.6 billion. It’s likely to overtake cable television as the company’s biggest business.

Mr. Roberts highlighted the company’s plans to offer increased speeds that could exceed multiple gigabits a second, several times faster than the current benchmark. “The robustness of our network in the U.S. speaks to how we’ve positioned ourselves to compete against other providers,” he said.

Comcast tends to see itself as a technology company first and a media concern second. Even Peacock is seen as an extension of its broadband business.

At NBCUniversal, sales sharply dropped as movie theaters remained mostly shuttered and fewer people were visiting the Universal Orlando Resort and other company theme parks because of the pandemic. Revenue fell 9 percent, to $7 billion, and pretax profit decreased 12 percent, to $1.5 billion. Advertising at its television networks, which include NBC, MSNBC and Syfy, fell 3.4 percent, to $2.1 billion.

Jeff Shell, the head of NBCUniversal, has instituted a series of cost-cutting measures since he took over in January 2020, an effort hastened by the pandemic. That has helped maintain profits, even as revenues dropped. The theme parks division was the hardest hit, losing $61 million in the quarter. The company said it expected the business to pick up in the summer.

Overall, Comcast beat expectations, reporting adjusted profit of 76 cents a share on $27.2 billion in revenue, and its stock was climbing on Thursday morning. Investors had been looking for 59 cents in per-share profit and $26.6 billion in sales.


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