Cable giant and media studio Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) reported fourth-quarter results on Thursday morning. The company closed its $39 billion buyout of European peer Sky early in the quarter, which moved the needle for Comcast's financial results in many ways.

Comcast's fourth-quarter results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q4 2018

Q4 2017

Year-Over-Year Change (Decline)

Revenue

$27.8 billion

$22.1 billion

26%

Net income

$2.58 billion

$15.1 billion

(83%)

GAAP earnings per share (diluted)

$0.55

$3.17

(83%)

Data source: Comcast.

What happened with Comcast this quarter?

  • The earnings comparison above is not exactly apples-to-apples since the year-ago period included a $12.7 billion one-time benefit from 2017's tax reform. Excluding this unique tax effect and some other items, mostly related to closing costs for the Sky acquisition, Comcast's adjusted earnings rose 36% year over year to $0.64 per share.
  • Sky contributed $4.26 billion of top-line revenue in the fourth quarter, reflecting nearly a full quarter's worth of operations. The merger closed on Oct. 9, less than two weeks into the fourth quarter. On a consolidated basis, as if the Sky deal had closed a full year earlier, Comcast's revenues increased by 5.2% while adjusted EBITDA profits rose by 11.1%, landing at $8.3 billion.
  • Sky brought 23.6 million customer accounts to the table, including 164,000 net new subscribers added during the fourth quarter.
  • Comcast's own cable network added 258,000 net new accounts in the quarter, making up for 29,000 departing video service subscribers by adding 351,000 new high-speed internet subscriptions.
  • NBCUniversal saw revenues rise by 7.1% year over year to $9.4 billion. Filmed entertainment led the way with a 14% jump in sales, thanks to strong performances from Dr. Seuss' The Grinch and Halloween. Theme park sales rose 3.5% to $1.51 billion, with $666 million of that haul as EBITDA profits.
Two businessmen shake hands in front of 24 large TV screens showing various types of content.

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say

Comcast is not known for issuing detailed financial guidance, but CEO Brian Roberts took some time in the earnings call to reflect on his company's prospects.

"We expect connectivity will again be the growth engine of our cable business in 2019 and beyond with sustainable benefits to our financial results as our mix shifts more toward these margin accretive businesses," Roberts said.

Turning to the NBCUniversal division, he continued: "The popularity of our programming is what gives us a great opportunity to create our own streaming service as we announced last week, which we plan to launch in 2020. This service will be distinct and compelling, offering current and prior seasons, library and some original content with a light advertising load offer free to pay-TV customers."

The as-yet-nameless streaming service, Roberts said, "will harness all of the things that make our company so unique." It should represent strong value for consumers as well as a powerful advertising platform for ad buyers, he said. In other words, Comcast's upcoming streaming platform sounds more like a new take on the ad-supported Hulu service than the marketing-free Netflix experience.

Check out the latest Comcast earnings call transcript.