After Netflix's Narrow Miss, What Does the Future Hold for Comcast?

After the news broke that Netflix matched revenue estimates but fell short on earnings, shares of the streaming provider dropped nearly 5%. Is this good news for cable behemoth Comcast, or does Netflix's success or lack thereof have no meaningful impact on the cable provider?

Jul 24, 2014 at 1:45PM

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Source: Netflix

After the company reported its revenue and earnings results after the market closed on July 21, shares of Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) fell almost 5% on July 22. The company's results more or less fell in line with analyst expectations and show that the business is growing at a nice clip as more consumers cut the cord and opt for streaming providers instead. Moving forward, what does this news imply for cable networks companies like Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA)?

Strong, but not quite on-the-mark results!
For the quarter, Netflix reported revenue of $1.34 billion. This matched analyst expectations as the company's top line came in 25% above its year-ago result of $1.07 billion. According to Netflix, the biggest contribution to this jump in revenue came from its streaming member count, which soared 33% from 37.6 million in the second quarter of 2013 to almost 50.1 million this quarter.

Of these, 95.9% of all members were paid, up from 94.9% last year. While management reported a higher ratio of paid to non-paid subscribers in both domestic and international markets, international users showed the largest improvement. For the quarter, Netflix saw 93.5% (or 12.9 million) of its international members classified as paid, up from 90.5% (or 7 million) last year.

  Last Year's Forecasted Actual
Revenue $1.07 billion $1.34 billion $1.34 billion
Earnings per Share $0.49 $1.16 $1.15

Sources: Yahoo! Finance and Netflix Corporate Filings

From an earnings standpoint, Netflix posted even more impressive results. For the quarter, the company reported earnings per share of $1.15. Unlike the case for its top line, the company fell short of analyst expectations by $0.01 here, but it's also worth noting that it reported a profit a jaw-dropping 135% higher than the $0.49 it reported in the year-ago period. This increase partially stemmed from higher revenue, but lower expenses also drove this result as cost of revenue dropped from 71.1% of sales last year to 68.3% this year.

What does this mean for Comcast?
Generally speaking, investors might think that Netflix's success bodes poorly for Comcast, but this isn't necessarily the case. As the company, as well as others like Hulu (which is partially owned by Comcast), becomes more popular more and more customers will cut the cord, but this action by consumers isn't having a significant impact on Comcast's top line.

Comcast 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Video Customers (millions) 21.7 22.0 22.3 22.8 23.6
Video Revenue (billions) $20.5 $20 $19.5 $19.4 $19.3
High-speed Internet Customers (millions) 20.7 19.4 18.1 17 15.9
High-speed Internet Revenue (billions) $10.3 $9.5 $8.7 $8 $7.3

Source: Comcast

Over the past five years, the company's video subscriber count declined 8% from 23.6 million in 2009 to 21.7 million at the end of the company's 2013 fiscal year. Moving forward, this trend will likely continue as customers find Internet-based alternatives like Netflix more appealing. In spite of this decline, though, revenue stemming from Comcast's residential video operations has grown 6% from $19.3 billion to $20.5 billion as price increases and higher levels of video service positively affected sales for the category.

Perhaps the real kicker though is Comcast's High-speed Internet operations. While it's nice to be able to cut the cord, customers still need Internet access to use streaming services like Netflix, something that Netflix recently struck a deal with its provider in exchange for faster speeds. Over the past five years, the number of High-speed Internet subscribers for Netflix has shot up 30% from 15.9 million to 20.7 million, with revenue soaring 41% from $7.3 billion to $10.3 billion.

Foolish takeaway
Right now, Netflix is going through a pretty nice growth spurt. In addition to growing its subscriber base, the company is seeing its revenue and earnings shoot up. As time progresses, it will be interesting to see if Netflix can maintain this trend. If the business can manage to grow its operations, this will negatively impact Comcast's video customer count, but given the company's ability to grow sales as subscribers decline and the rise in revenue reported for its high-speed Internet category, the Foolish investor shouldn't worry too much about it. In fact, because of the significance of Comcast to Netflix's success, the business might make for a good prospect for investors who find Netflix's shares too pricey.

Will both Netflix and Comcast get the shaft?
Right now, there's a war going on over what will likely become a $2.2 trillion industry. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple. 

 

Daniel Jones has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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