Led in part by a hoard of out-of-control dinosaurs and a gaggle of adorable yellow creatures, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) had a very strong third quarter.
The success of Jurassic World and Minions helped the Filmed Entertainment Revenue division to a 64% increase in revenue, and the dino pic made Universal Pictures the first studio to ever have three films hit $1 billion in global box office in the same year. But movies were only one piece of the puzzle during a quarter in which consolidated revenue increased 11.2% to $18.7 billion.
"I'm pleased to report that our businesses generated outstanding revenue and operating cash flow growth for the third quarter of 2015," said CEO Brian Roberts in the earnings release. The executive noted the growth in the movie division and also cited improvements in the cable division (where pay television and Internet service are housed). "At Cable Communications, overall customer relationships increased 156,000, a 90% improvement compared to last year, video subscriber results were the best for a third quarter in 9 years, high-speed Internet subscriber results were the best for a third quarter in 6 years, and churn across all product categories continues to improve."
Overall it was a strong quarter that left company executives excited about growth potential moving forward.
Cable growth requires innovation
While the company lost 48,000 cable subscribers during the period, it grew its total customer base when you factor in Internet. Roberts said during the earnings call that Cable Communications could continue to drive revenue growth, but it will require innovation. He cited the success of the company's X1 platform (a cable box with enhanced interactive functions) and early results from deployment of its voice command remote control.
The CEO explained that the company needs to continue to move those efforts forward:
We continue to push harder on X1 and have now accelerated our deployment to over 40,000 boxes per day. Roughly 25% of our video subscribers now have X1, and the reaction from our customers together with the financial benefits that we're seeing continues to indicate we should go even faster in taking that rate higher.
Roberts also noted that adding new ways to watch shows, including video on demand and enhanced DVRs, lowers churn. He said that the company's technology efforts have paid off, and that they will make leaving less attractive for subscribers.
There's a deep list of initiatives that are adding to our value proposition for our customers. Last quarter, we talked about launching a voice remote. To-date, we've already deployed nearly 1.5 million of them, and we're confident that we have unrivaled content rights, which makes it much more important for us to facilitate the discovery of that content.
Comcast's Universal Studios theme parks also had a big quarter, with record attendance (driven in part by the company's Florida Harry Potter attractions) driving revenue and operating cash flow growth of 14.1%. Roberts said he expected to continue to invest in theme parks, and noted that the company had announced a deal to acquire a 51% stake in Universal Studios Japan earlier in the quarter.
We believe that in Japan and in other parks, the combination of wonderful intellectual property and new attractions along with great service and value for families translates into very strong performance.
In its cable and Internet business Comcast has made an effort to improve its much-maligned customer service. This has included adding thousands of new employees and attempting a broad overhaul of how the company treats its subscribers. In addition to those ongoing efforts, the company has also taken note of what consumers want in developing its products offerings.