Comcast Answers the Competitive Call

If you look at Comcast's (NYSE: CMCSA  ) quarterly results, I'll venture that you'll likely walk away with a better handle on the company's ability to compete heads up with the likes of Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and AT&T (NYSE: T  ) , along with satellite video providers DIRECTV (NYSE: DTV  ) and Dish (NYSE: DISH  ) .

For the quarter, Comcast earned $732 million, or $0.24 per share, compared to $837 million, or $0.26 per share for the same quarter in 2007. But as is so often the case with the big companies, both quarters included one-time gains that, if excluded from the results, yielded $588 million in income for the quarter, or $0.19 per share, compared to $537 million, or $0.17 per share for 2007's first quarter. Revenues were up 14% in the quarter to $8.4 billion.

On the video side, Comcast's revenues increased 5% to $4.7 billion. That increase represented the combined effects of price increases, a boost in the number of digital video subscribers, and higher demand for such digital features as video-on-demand, along with digital video recorder and high-definition capabilities.

At the same time, revenues from Comcast's high-speed data offering increased by 12% to $1.8 billion, and revenue from the newest member of the company's triple play -- telephone services -- climbed by 65% to $587 million. Also, its programming segment -- which consists of E! Entertainment and Style Network, The Golf Channel (to which I'm personally addicted), G4, and Versus -- checked in with a 20% hike in revenues to $363 million.

What, then, does all this mean for investors in cable? It indicates that the cable operators, especially Comcast and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC  ) , are quite capable of going toe to toe with the telcos and rewarding their shareholders in the process. Indeed, Comcast's shares are up about 20% for the year, and Time Warner Cable, the second-largest of the cable multisystems operators, has seen its shares climb by about 6% in 2008.

Beyond that, it appears that Comcast is on the road to adding another service to its bundling capability. With that in mind, the company floated a debt offering of $2 billion last week, as it mulls over its wireless broadband options, specifically joining the Sprint (NYSE: S  ) and Clearwire-led WiMax bandwagon.

My Foolish friends might benefit from a slow accumulation of positions in Comcast. For years, the market has been concerned about cable's ability to contend with whatever competitive boogeyman appeared to be lurking at the time. It seems that Comcast has responded to that clarion call yet again.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith genuflects daily in the direction of The Golf Channel. He doesn't own shares in any companies mentioned, but he does solicit your comments and questions. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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