10-30-13 7:15 AM EDT | Email Article
   By John Kell and Shalini Ramachandran 
 

Comcast Corp.'s (CMCSA, CMCSK) third-quarter profit dropped 18% as the cable operator reported weaker revenue, as prior-year results were bolstered by the 2012 Summer Olympics and asset-sale gains.

Profit a year ago was boosted by Comcast's sale of spectrum to Verizon Wireless Inc., as well as the sale of Comcast's stake in A&E Television Networks.

Overall, Comcast reported a third-quarter profit of $1.73 billion, or 65 cents a share, down from $2.11 billion, or 78 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding the asset-sale gains in the year-earlier period, profit would have risen from 46 cents a share last year.

Revenue slid 2.4% to $16.15 billion, but would have risen 5.2% when excluding the boost Comcast got from the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a profit of 61 cents a share on $16.25 billion in revenue.

At the company's cable business, which accounts for the bulk of the top line, revenue grew 5.2% to $10.49 billion. But the company shed more video customers this quarter than the year earlier, losing 129,000 compared to 117,000 a year ago. That's a change from most of the last several quarters, where Comcast improved its video subscriber losses from the year-earlier period.

Comcast has generally outperformed its cable peers, even as the U.S. cable industry as a whole has suffered losses of video subscribers for years because of competition from satellite TV and phone companies.

Cable companies have offset the loss of that business by adding broadband customers, boosting sales of advanced video services, raising rates and expanding business services. Comcast added 297,000 broadband subscribers compared to 287,000 a year ago, boosting its broadband revenue 7.9%. Business services revenue grew 26.4%.

At Comcast's NBCUniversal, operating cash flow--a measure of profitability--grew 9.6%. The broadcast TV segment, home to the flagship NBC network, posted a 41% slump in revenue, though the top line would have risen excluding last year's Olympics. The broadcast segment excluding the impact of the Olympics would have showed operating cash flow growth, at $34 million compared to a loss of $32 million a year ago.

Cable networks' operating cash flow climbed 5.4%. The theme-parks division, meanwhile, posted a 8.6% jump in operating cash flow. Total revenue at NBCUniversal slid 14% to $5.85 billion, though it would have risen excluding the Olympics.

Earlier this year, Comcast bought General Electric Co.'s (GE) remaining 49% stake in the NBCUniversal joint venture for about $16.7 billion. That deal gave Comcast complete control of the NBC broadcast network and cable networks such as CNBC, Bravo and E!. It also included the Universal film studios, as well as the Universal parks and resorts.

 

Write to John Kell at john.kell@wsj.com and Shalini Ramachandran at shalini.ramachandran@wsj.com

 

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 30, 2013 07:15 ET (11:15 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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