Comcast (CMCSA -1.92%) is no high-growth tech stock. Nevertheless, the company proves that even highly profitable "value" stocks can be volatile. Comcast has been blasted by the bear market this year, with shares sporting a 38% decline year to date. In fact, Comcast shares are nearly as low as they've been at any time over the last five-year stretch. They also trade for less than 10 times trailing-12-month free cash flow.  

The communications and media giant still has some good things going for it, though, especially if dividend stocks are what you're after. In fact, with the world in turmoil, Comcast might be getting ready to do some housecleaning to spiff up its operations.

A big write-off on a past acquisition

In the wake of the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, Comcast acquired a majority stake in media company NBCUniversal from then-owner General Electric. Yeah, remember that disaster? In 2013, Comcast bought the remaining 49% of NBCUniversal. The total price tag for the two-part deal? $30.5 billion.  

Suffice it to say Comcast has done pretty well on its opportunistic buy. Through the first nine months of 2022 alone, the NBCUniversal segment has hauled in $29.3 billion in revenue. It is highly profitable -- adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) margin was 17.5% so far this year.

However, the 2018 acquisition of British media outfit Sky hasn't gone so well. Comcast had outbid 21st Century Fox (which was subsequently taken over by Disney) for a total purchase price of $39 billion. Comcast was looking for international exposure, but it hasn't gone so well. Sky has struggled to gain any traction under Comcast. Sky revenue was just $13.5 billion in the first nine months of 2022, and profit margins are typically lower than its U.S.-based NBCUniversal media sister subsidiary (adjusted EBITDA margin of 16.2% so far this year).  

That's where housecleaning item No. 1 might come in. Around the same time as reporting third-quarter 2022 earnings, reports surfaced that Comcast might be working on a deal to sell off the German operation of Sky, perhaps for as much as 1 billion euros. In the last earnings release, Comcast said that solid increases at Sky in the U.K. (its home market) were offset by lower results in Germany and Italy (non-core Sky markets).  

Comcast also announced an $8.6 billion impairment charge on Sky -- basically an admission it overpaid for the Sky assets. This is no growth business. Rather, Comcast is all about effective capital allocation in support of its dividend and share repurchases. If Sky is no longer making financial sense, I would expect the company to start selling some of those assets for cash and putting it to work somewhere else.

Another questionable asset: Streaming TV

Streaming TV is a hot growth trend for select companies, but not so much so for Comcast. NBCUniversal's Peacock was revealed to have more than 15 million paying subscribers in the U.S. and another 14 million bundled and free users. The grand total of "around 30 million monthly active accounts" hasn't moved much this year (there were about 28 million subscribers after the first quarter of 2022).

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh said Peacock's revenue in Q3 more than doubled year over year to $506 million. However, EBITDA losses for Peacock were a whopping $614 million.

Comcast launched an international streaming TV joint venture with Paramount Global in September called SkyShowtime. Perhaps teaming up with another TV streamer would be a better option for the flailing U.S. Peacock service.  

A better use of assets right now

If Comcast were to offload part of its Sky media business and got a little more creative with Peacock, what would it do with the money? Two areas could use the cash: wireless (which it markets through Xfinity to its broadband internet and other cable subscribers) and theme parks.

Wireless is still a small segment for Comcast, but it has taken over as a top growth driver for the cable communications business now that the pandemic-fueled boom in broadband subscribers is finished. So far in 2022, its Wireless segment has added a net 968,000 new lines, bringing the total to nearly 4.95 million as of the end of September. However, with over 32 million broadband subs, Wireless has a long way to go before it's tapped out. Comcast and Charter Communications have been partnered up on the mobile front for the last few years.

And then there's the Universal Studios theme parks, a capital-intensive endeavor but one that is nearly firing on all cylinders again (excluding the newest park in Beijing that keeps getting hit with COVID-19 lockdowns). Theme park revenue jumped 42% year over year last quarter to $2.1 billion, and management reported record profitability as households around the globe are back in vacation mode. New Universal Studios projects like Super Nintendo World (licensed from the perennially popular video game company Nintendo) cost money to build but are proving a great way to keep visitors coming back.

Despite its mixed bag of results, Comcast still has a lot to offer. A little housecleaning could go a long way toward keeping its dividend (currently yielding 3.4% a year) and its share repurchases (a new authorization to purchase $20 billion worth of stock) intact. Don't expect blistering growth from this stock, but if income is what you desire, give Comcast a serious look.