Although it often plays second fiddle to other entertainment and communications giants, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) put the final wrap on a very successful 2019. Overall revenues and profits increased, overcoming a wave of residential customers canceling cable TV packages, a weak showing at the box office, and no broadcasting bump from big sporting events like the Super Bowl or the Olympics.

Fiscal 2020 should be an eventful year, though, with Comcast's NBCUniversal getting ready to enter the streaming TV wars, high-speed internet connections still rising, and shareholders getting treated to a 10% boost to the dividend paid.

A yellow ethernet cable plugged into the back of a modem.

Image source: Getty Images.

2019 by the numbers

Comcast ended 2019 with some healthy results. NBCUniversal finished down 3% in the fourth quarter, due to its near-universally panned film rendition of Broadway classic Cats leading to a 21% year-over-year drop in the company's films segment. For the whole year, revenues were down 5%, most of that due to the extra advertising and related broadcasting revenue from the NFL's Super Bowl and Winter Olympics in South Korea brought in during 2018. At the end of the day, profits excluding one-time items were still up 2%.  

And then there was European TV network Sky, its first full year under Comcast's umbrella. Revenue and adjusted profits were flat in the fourth quarter -- or up 1.4% and 0.4% respectively if excluding currency exchange rates -- but notched healthy gains for full-year 2019. Adjusted profits excluding currency fluctuations grew 12%, thanks to Sky adding 394,000 customer relationships and direct-to-consumer programming, giving profit margins a boost.  

Metric

12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2019

12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2018

Increase
(Decrease)

Cable Communications

Revenue

$58.1 billion

$56.0 billion

4%

Adjusted EBITDA

$23.3 billion

$21.7 billion

7%

NBCUniversal

Revenue

$34.0 billion

$35.8 billion

(5%)

Adjusted EBITDA

$8.77 billion

$8.60 billion

2%

Sky (pro forma based on Sky's stand-alone results last year)

Revenue

$19.2 billion

$19.8 billion

(3%)

Adjusted EBITDA

$3.10 billion

$2.89 billion

7%

EBITDA = earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization. Data source: Comcast.  

High-speed internet is where it's at

Let's circle back around to the cable segment, Comcast's most important operation. Cord-cutting gets lots of attention these days, and rightfully so as TV streaming services are hastening the decline of legacy cable TV operations. Comcast said it lost net 671,000 residential and 61,000 business cable TV relationships in 2019, lowering its total to just over 21 million relationships.  

I'm always surprised at just how much attention these figures get, though. Cable is undoubtedly on the downhill, but it isn't as if it's ready to completely disappear for Comcast in the near future. Those 21 million relationships are still a big number. Besides, NBCU's Peacock streaming service is landing this year, which is sure to help offset some cable pain via advertising revenue and maybe even some subscription fees.

But here's what should really be grabbing headlines: Comcast's bread-and-butter within the cable communications segment, high-speed internet. It added another net 1.32 million residential and 89,000 business connections in 2019 -- bringing the grand total up to 28.6 million and easily offsetting cable TV losses. The move to broadband internet is the real number to watch here for the foreseeable future, and the growth rates remain healthy.  

Add wireless business to the list of must-watch items for Comcast as well. The company piggybacks off of Verizon's network to offer discount cellular services, and it reached 2.05 million total lines in Q4. Net lines added in 2019 were 816,000, and revenues from the segment grew 31% to $1.17 billion. Comcast's wireless is nearing break-even and could be a solid addition to the bottom line in 2020 and beyond.

What's a potential investor to do?

All told, 2019 was a great outing for Comcast, and the company announced it increased its annual dividend payout 10%, good for a current yield of 2%. Based on estimates for another solid year ahead for profits for the diversified media giant, the stock trades for a mere 12.9 times expected earnings. Existing shareholders might want to take a look at adding to positions as the stock has pulled back from highs post-report -- even though the company topped expectations -- and Comcast looks like a must-own value stock for those that aren't in already.