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10 Things You May Not Know About Comcast

By Daniel B. Kline – Jan 20, 2016 at 6:00PM

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The company is huge and public, but in some ways, it keeps a low profile.

Most investors probably know the basics of Comcast's (CMCSA -2.25%) history:

The cable giant started as a regional company in 1963 and has since become a far-reaching media empire.

In addition to having to more Internet customers of any company, it's also the second largest pay-television provider in the United States after AT&T (T -2.12%), which took the top spot after it bought DirecTV. In addition, the media giant also owns NBC, its associated cable networks, the Universal film company, and the Universal Studios theme parks. The company also has a controlling interest in the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League, and it formerly owned the National Basketball Association's Philadelphia 76ers. 

It's a very diverse company that owns everything from the Bravo Network to the Shrek movies. But, just because it's a high-profile brand, that doesn't mean people know everything about it. Here are 10 things you may not have known about Comcast.

1. Microsoft (MSFT -0.97%) once invested $1 billion in Comcast. The deal, which was made in 1997, was to "enhance Comcast's deployment of high-speed data and video services via its cable delivery network," according to a press release. The deal was made to give the tech company a way into the growing feed of video and data into people's homes at a time when the Internet was still developing. It was supposed to involve Microsoft software on a Comcast cable box, but that never panned out.

In 2009, Microsoft cashed out its stake, which was worth between "as little as $1.97 billion or as much as $3.4 billion," The New York Times reported. 

2. Four of the top five domestic opening weekend box office hits belong to Disney (DIS -0.75%) (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, both Avengers movies, Iron Man 3), while the the fifth is second-place Jurassic World, a Universal release. Until The Force Awakens recorded its $247 million U.S. opening, the dinosaur film from the Comcast-owned studio had topped the chart with $208 million. 

3. Disney is not just Comcast's rival at the movies -- both companies also have theme park divisions, and both were bidders for the Harry Potter property, which has been a huge hit for Universal Studios at its Florida park and soon-to-be at its California locations. When the property was put up for bidding, Disney reportedly passed during the 2007 auction because author J.K. Rowling wanted creative control.  

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Image source: Comcast. 

That was likely a huge mistake since the Potter attractions were cited by Comcast as a driving force behind why its theme park division's revenue increased 17.3% to $2.6 billion in 2014 compared to $2.2 billion in 2013. Those numbers continued to grow through the first nine months of 2015, with the theme parks posting 22.9%, a number likely to grow in 2016 due to the addition of a Potter land in the company's California park.

4. The cable giant started modestly in 1963 with the purchase of a 1,200-subscriber cable system in Tupelo, Mississippi.

5. Ralph J. Roberts, the company's founder, was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame in 2000.Brian Roberts, his son, and the company's current CEO, was added in 2006. 

6. Comcast worked with Microsoft again on MSNBC. When the cable giant bought NBCUniversal, it was once again in business with the tech company that had once invested $1 billion in it. Much like the first time, this deal didn't work out either, with Comcast buying Microsoft's stake in the cable channel in 2005 and buying out its share of MSNBC.com in 2012, Reuters reported.

7. Before it was called Comcast, Ralph Robert's company was called International Equity Corp, according to his cable Hall of Fame biography. The new and current name was "an amalgam of the words 'communications' and 'broadcasting,'" according to the bio.

8. Comcast has one of the largest corporate days of volunteering in the United States. Called "Comcast Cares Day," the event began in 2001 in Philadelphia with about 6,000 volunteers, the company wrote in a web post. In 2015, more than 100,000 volunteers "improved more than 900 parks, schools, beaches, senior centers and other vital community sites," the company wrote. 

9. At $134.75 billion as of close of market January 19, 2016, Comcast has a bigger market cap than Charter, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision combined. It's still smaller than AT&T, though, which ended that day at $212.5 billion.

Source: YCharts.com.

10. In 2004, Comcast made a $54 billion stock-swap offer for Disney, according to Bloomberg. Disney's "rejection caused its own stock to rise and Comcast's to lose ground, depleting Comcast's negotiating power," the news site reported, and the offer was pulled.

Daniel Kline owns shares of Microsoft. He prefers Universal's rides to Disney's but thinks Disney manages its parks better. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. 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.

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Stocks Mentioned

AT&T Inc. Stock Quote
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Microsoft Corporation Stock Quote
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The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
The Walt Disney Company
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Comcast Stock Quote
Comcast
CMCSA
$30.05 (-2.25%) $0.69
Charter Communications, Inc. Stock Quote
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