A recurring theme swirling through the financial media for several months now is that cable providers like Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) face an uncertain future. This is due to the "cord-cutting" phenomenon currently taking place, in which consumers ditch their high-priced cable packages in exchange for Internet-based subscriptions like Netflix. The negative sentiment facing cable companies has accelerated in recent weeks, because Time Warner's HBO and CBS have announced that their own individual services can be purchased without the need for a cable package.
With all of this going on, it might seem like Comcast and other cable companies are facing a severe threat to their business models. And it's true that Comcast has seen video subscribers flee because of cord-cutting. But it's important to remember that Comcast has a diversified business model. Even if consumers ditch cable in favor of Netflix and a stand-alone HBO or CBS package, they still need Internet. As you might expect, Comcast has enjoyed robust Internet subscriber additions that are more than offsetting declines in video subscribers. Plus, Comcast holds other assets that are providing growth, such as NBC Universal.
Here's why Comcast will be just fine, even under the pressures of cord-cutting.
Putting losses in context
Comcast is a very large company, with a $137 billion market capitalization. It has a number of reporting segments that each contribute to revenue and profits, including video, high-speed Internet, voice, business services, and NBC Universal. To be sure, its video business makes up a large portion of its cable communications business, about 30% of total revenue. For that reason, those bearish on Comcast point to the ongoing boom in cord-cutting as a sign of the company's impending doom.
And yet, Comcast keeps growing quarter after quarter. Its total revenue increased 4% last quarter, and operating profit rose 9%. This defeats the notion that the growth of Netflix and other Internet-based television services are seriously damaging Comcast.
The reason for this is that even though Comcast is indeed losing video customers, 81,000 of them last quarter, to be exact, it's more than making up for this loss in other areas. Customers ditching their cable packages and opting for streaming television services still need the Internet. Comcast continues to benefit from this, as it added 315,000 high-speed Internet customers just last quarter. Plus, Comcast owns NBC Universal, which is putting up great results itself. Revenue from the NBC Universal segment, which includes NBC and theme parks, is up 9% through the first nine months of the year, thanks largely to its very successful broadcast television network.
Even within video, Comcast is still growing revenue because it's able to pass along price increases at a rate that more than makes up for the loss of customers. Not only that, but Comcast's customer mix is shifting. It's losing a lot of single-product customers, 124,000 of them just last quarter. But it's adding even more triple-product customers, 164,000 of them in the third quarter. That's good news not just because there are more customers added than lost, but also because triple-product customers are much more profitable for Comcast because they subscribe to higher-margin bundles.
Streaming television is not a Comcast killer
With the rise of Internet streaming, it's easy to assume Comcast faces a bleak future in which its customers cancel their subscriptions and opt for Netflix and stand-alone television networks. But Comcast is so large and diverse that losses of video subscribers are more than made up for in additions of Internet subscribers. And those video customers that stay with Comcast are increasingly signing up for higher-margin bundles, which add significantly to Comcast's profits. Plus, Comcast's decision to purchase NBC Universal was a good move that has proven to be accretive.
In short, Comcast has a plan to thrive in the world of streaming Internet television.
Bob Ciura owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.