Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) had a strong quarter led by growth in its Internet business and two major movie hits, Minions and Jurassic World.
The company posted positive results for its third quarter across the board, with the only signs of weakness coming in its cable television business, where pay television customers dropped by 48,000. That number's importance was minimized by the fact that Comcast's overall customer relationships increased by 156,000, a 90% improvement from the third quarter of 2014.
Revenue jumped 11.2% year-over-year to $18.7 billion for the quarter, while adjusted earnings gained 9.6% to $0.80 per share, matching consensus estimates.
CEO Brian Roberts issued a statement praising the report, while noting that the loss of video subscribers has slowed down, and the company has hit a number of other milestones:
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. NBCUniversal also delivered terrific results, including another record-breaking box office quarter driven by Minions and Jurassic World, the highest summer attendance ever at our theme parks, and maintaining the #1 broadcast network ranking for the 5th summer in a row.
Roberts is certainly viewing the results through a bit of a rose-colored lens (being the No. 1 broadcast network in the summer would be a lot better if NBC was anywhere close to the top the rest of the year). While the CEO is certainly doling out the hype, his company has weathered the storm well in its cable business, has built up franchises that will payout for years to come in its film division, and has leveraged all of that well through its theme parks, which are competing strongly against the monster that is Walt Disney.
Cable is holding up
Comcast has not been blind to the idea that cord-cutting is real, and the company has been aggressive in its attempts to adapt that division to its new reality. Revenue for cable communication, which includes pay television and Internet, increased 6.3% to $11.7 billion in the third quarter of 2015, driven by increases of 10.2% in high-speed Internet, 19.5% in business services, and 3.3% in video.
The company has been losing cable customers, but it's also making more money from the ones it's keeping. That strategy could grow dicey at some point, as higher bills might make Comcast's best customers look elsewhere, but for now, it's working well.
Movies crushed it
Because Comcast, like Disney, owns such a broad spectrum of properties, a hit movie is worth more than it would be to a standalone studio. Minions extends the company's Despicable Me brand into a successful spinoff series, and Jurassic World revived a franchise that had previously run out of steam. Both can be spun into television properties, theme parks rides, video games, and of course, more movies.
In the third quarter of 2015, revenue from the filmed entertainment segment increased 64% year-over-year to $1.9 billion. Comcast enjoyed higher theatrical revenue from the record performances of Minions and Jurassic World, following up the earlier success of Furious 7.
Of course, these numbers will be hard to match next year, but as the company grows its number of near sure-thing franchises, its ability to have predictable film division results goes up. Once again, it's taking a page out of the Disney handbook, where much of its film slate is proven and bears less risk.
Theme parks are paying off
While the Florida and California Universal Studios theme parks are still dwarfed by Disney's operations in those states, Comcast's aggressive investment in its properties has begun to pay off.
For the quarter, revenue from the theme parks segment increased 14.1% to $896 million, "reflecting higher guest attendance and per capita spending, driven by the continued success of Orlando's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley, as well as Fast and Furious: Supercharged at the Hollywood park".
Disney does not break out results for each property, but its Parks and Resorts revenue for the third quarter increased 4% to $4.1 billion. That's slower growth compared to Comcast, and there are signs that the Mouse House is concerned about rival parks -- most notably its announcement of a massive addition of Star Wars-related "lands" on both coasts.
It's fair to call the Star Wars expansion a pretty direct answer to Harry Potter, but Comcast has shown a willingness to invest in these properties. Because of its film hits, it owns the properties to answer almost anything Disney throws at it (and it has the wild card of owning U.S. rights to many Marvel characters, which are now owned by Disney in film).
Comcast has not yet found all the answers for Disney any more than it has completely solved the cord-cutting problem, but this was an encouraging quarter on both fronts.