It was merely a matter of time before Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) followed Disney's (NYSE:DIS) lead in making ticket prices more expensive for its Central Florida theme parks. A single-day ticket to Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure now starts at $110, up from $105 before Friday.
The popular one-day park-to-park tickets -- a necessity for anyone who wants to ride the Hogwarts Express train ride, which shuttles guests from one park to the other -- are going up by $10 to $165. One-day tickets are pricier during seasonal peak periods, with rates now at $124 for one park and $179 for the park-to-park admission.
Comcast's move comes just five days after Disney World pushed through its own price hike on most of its one-day tickets. It's a role reversal from last February when Comcast made the first move. The February before that, it was Disney drawing first blood. The moral of the story is that folks planning a visit to Florida's theme parks need to buy their tickets before February to avoid increases that have been as high as 18%.
Disney also rolled out a price increase for its annual passes along with last weekend's ticket-pricing bump. Comcast didn't follow suit, as Universal Orlando executed a double-digit percentage increase on those passes over the summer. It was the third increase by Comcast in a 16-month span, with comparable Universal Orlando annual passes rising between 27% and 38% over that time.
The bottom line is that it's going to cost a few more bucks to visit one of the country's most popular theme parks now. The silver lining is that if any year should warrant a stiffer cover charge out of Comcast and Disney, it would be this one. Disney World has its most ambitious theme park expansion since 2012 set to open in May. Universal Orlando is opening a brand new water park in May, and a month earlier it will officially open the Race Through New York attraction, starring The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon.
Disney World's attendance declined through most of 2016, and even Universal Orlando's heady growth pace appears to be decelerating. Pushing prices higher in this climate may seem dangerous, but the payoff to the bottom line is too juicy to ignore if patrons don't flinch. It's going to be an interesting summer as we see attendance trends play out.