Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) reports fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday morning, and the Fool is here with a program guide for the event. Rewind to the third quarter, then skip back to the live feed for an updated outlook.

What Fools say:
Here's how Comcast's CAPS score rates against some of its peers and competitors:

Market Cap (millions)

Trailing P/E Ratio

CAPS Rating

Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ)

$104,780

19.2

****

Comcast

$52,428

22.3

**

DirecTV Group (Nasdaq: DTV)

$26,783

19.6

***

Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC)

$23,546

21.0

**

Cablevision Systems (NYSE: CVC)

$7,374

256.0

*

Market data taken from Capital IQ, a division of Standard and Poors, and CAPS rating taken from Motley Fool CAPS.

Comcast has stepped down to a two-star rating after a long stay in Three-Star City. The new bears point to increased competition and bad management, while a few recent bulls are touting new services and a stock price with lots of pessimism already built in.

Net income was inflated in the September 2006 quarter by $694 million in one-time gains from the Adelphia shuffle, and once again in the March 2007 quarter by $500 million in some other one-time gains (both gains before taxes). Aside from those temporary boosts, and a rapidly rising revenue stream, it's "steady as she goes, cap'n!"

Margins

6/2006

9/2006

12/2006

3/2007

6/2007

9/2007

Gross

63.8%

63.9%

63.9%

63.8%

63.9%

63.9%

Operating

17.5%

18.3%

18.5%

18.2%

18.1%

18.0%

Net

5.8%

9.7%

10.1%

10.9%

10.6%

7.9%

FCF/Revenue

8.4%

9.4%

8.9%

7.0%

7.8%

5.3%

Y-O-Y Growth

6/2006

9/2006

12/2006

3/2007

6/2007

9/2007

Revenue

7.2%

11.8%

18.5%

25.6%

28.6%

28.1%

Earnings

(2.1%)

67.2%

169.9%

134.6%

147.2%

26.2%

All data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-month performance for the quarters ended in the named months.

One Fool says:
Triple-play service bundles are working out great for Comcast, and the digital set-top boxes that play a part in that gambit also expose customers to tempting extras like video on demand and DVRs.

There's even a license agreement and actual plans in place to roll out software upgrades to DVR users, who will then wake up the next morning with bona fide TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO) service. Well, almost. It'll still be the same hardware, mostly from Motorola (NYSE: MOT), and thus not offer Wi-Fi networking or other tasty extras. It's still too early to see any impact on earnings and customer data this quarter, since only Boston is covered at this point. But it's a start, and that move could improve the retention rates in Comcast's DVR population.

In the bigger picture, I'm wondering what will happen when Comcast's triple-play strategy reaches saturation, and then bumps into growing competition from Verizon's FiOS and other telecom solutions. America isn't used to having multiple choices for land-line TV services in the same service area. When that happens -- and I think that'll be within the next two years, tops -- both the upstart telcos and the incumbent cable systems will need to compete on pricing and innovative services, which will hurt their bottom lines but do wonders for consumers.

It'll be fun to watch that -- from the sidelines. But right now, Comcast's stock has been pummeled by recession fears and competition scares, and I think it's due for a bounce after decent earnings numbers. Just keep an eye on subscriber growth, because that's where the meat is.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like. Foolish disclosure is the Punxsutawney Phil of financial forecasting.