Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCS.A) has been on a solid run. In the fourth quarter, its consolidated revenue increased by 4.2% to $15 billion while adjusted earnings per share rose by 8.9% to $0.49.
In addition, revenue for its cable division climbed by 4.2%. Though it lost 33,000 video customers, overall customer relationships grew by 243,000 due to broadband gains.
Despite the strong quarter, however, the stock slipped lower throughout the month of February, with the price dipping more than 6% on Feb. 27 when Comcast decided to take on Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) (NASDAQ:FOXA) over British broadcaster Sky Networks (NASDAQOTH: BSYBF).
While it's hard to be upset about Comcast's Q4, there are some warning signs. The company had been one of the few pay-television providers to be able to avoid the impact of cord-cutting. That changed in 2017 when Comcast dropped 151,000 cable customers and the Q4 loss showed that the trend will likely continue.
The pay-TV losses are not a big worry on their own, but the overall trend of the cable audience shrinking could impact the company's television properties. In addition, investors are clearly concerned about the pending war with FOX over Sky.
The price for Sky could get quite expensive and Fox will be a tough competitor with its coffers full of cash from its deal to sell off some of its assets to Walt Disney. Investors may also be concerned about the deal in general because the assets would increase the company's exposure in cable.
These fears were a drag on Comcast throughout February. After closing January at $42.53, shares fell to $36.21 at the end of February, a drop of almost 15%, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Comcast has such a diverse lineup of properties that weakness in cable won't drag it down. The Sky deal's price could increase, but nothing requires the company to get into a bidding war if it decided it has gotten too expensive.
The pay-TV business is changing, but Comcast should be able to navigate it. Although that may not happen quickly, a company this big, with so many premium movie and television properties, should be able to overcome the distribution problem caused by cord-cutting.