Comcast now has more Internet customers than cable TV subscribers

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts: 'Of course we are disappointed' about TWC but company beats earnings expectations

Comcast Corp. again demonstrated that the future is indeed the Internet.

Comcast beat Wall Street estimates on Monday with first quarter profit up 10% compared with the year-ago period with strong gains in its Internet service business. The positive earnings came less than two weeks after the company's planned $45-billion takeover of Time Warner Cable collapsed amid pressure from Washington.

Federal regulators were gearing up to block the merger, worried that Comcast could become too formidable a gatekeeper of the Internet.

"Of course we are disappointed," Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said during an earnings call early Monday with Wall Street analysts. "It was a unique, one-off situation but really, really we have moved on."

Roberts declined to dwell on the company's missed opportunity. He said he had looked forward to bringing his company's state-of-the-industry products to new markets, including Los Angeles and New York.

"The government ultimately didn't see it the same way," he said. 

The stinging defeat came in a month when Comcast quietly hit a milestone.

The company now has more than 22 million high-speed Internet customers, surpassing the number of customers that subscribe to its packages of cable TV channels. Comcast added 407,000 Internet customers during the first quarter, which also saw a loss of about 8,000 cable TV subscribers.

Comcast may not be the largest pay-TV operator in the U.S. for much longer. If the federal government approves AT&T's proposed $49 billion takeover of DirecTV, as expected, that company would hold the distinction of being the biggest pay-TV provider in the nation.

"Our No. 1 focus is to deliver the kind of results we have posted here today, to stay focused and not take our eye off the ball," Roberts said later on the call.

For the quarter ended March 31, Comcast produced net income of $2.06 billion, or 81 cents a share, compared with $1.87 billion, or 71 cents a share in the year earlier period. Analysts had expected around 74 cents a share.

Revenue was up 2.6% to $17.9 billion.

The company also said it was increasing its share buy-back plan this year by $2.5 billion. Comcast plans to buy back $6.75 billion in shares this year.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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