It wasn't that long ago -- a couple of years, perhaps -- that we thought the world of cable was immune to economic fluctuations. After all, the reasoning went, when times get tough, folks would rather maintain their cable hookups than pay through the nose for other forms of recreation or entertainment.

But the times have changed. The result for Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), the majordomo of the cable industry, was a quarter that really can be looked at in a couple of ways. On the one hand, its earnings per share for the fourth quarter dropped by 30%, rarely a good sign for any company. At the same time, both pro forma revenue and operating cash flow grew by 7%, as the company's management team was able to cut expenses and increase its ARPU -- the average revenue it generates from each customer.

For the quarter, Comcast earned $412 million, following a $600 million pre-tax writedown on Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), its wireless-broadband provider. If you back out that item, the company earned $790 million, or $0.27 a share, versus $0.20 a share in the final quarter of 2007.

The cable segment's top line grew by 8% to $32.4 billion, as digital and advanced video services improved their presence, and the high-speed data, digital telephone, and business services all managed to expand their operations. As has been the case in most of the media sector, advertising revenue wasn't especially impressive. However, back on the good news side of the ledger, at year's end, 23% of the company's customers were taking three bundled services, compared with 16% at the close of 2007.   

Comcast, like Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), the second-largest cable operator, continues to struggle with triple play offerings from telephone company competitors Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T). Time Warner Cable recently reported an improvement in revenues, which were more than offset by an $14.8 billion impairment of cable franchise rights. The other major cable operator, Cablevision (NYSE:CVC), will report its results next week.

So should we be buyers, sellers, or holders of Comcast? Thankfully, the company's capable CEO, Brian Roberts, has observed "minor signs of encouragement" in customer purchases following what he termed an "October meltdown." Nevertheless, given the consumer pullback that continues to intensify, my inclination is to choose the third option. If you own the stock, don't sell. If you don't, don't buy.

Comcast wears a pair of Motley Fool CAPS stars. Why not take a second and weigh in on the company?  

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy.