Universal movie blockbusters boost Comcast earnings

Universal Pictures' string of blockbusters, led by "Jurassic World," and "Furious 7," propelled cable giant Comcast's second-quarter earnings.

The Los Angeles film studio has had a rip-roaring year, generating $2.3 billion in revenue during the April-June quarter and $422 million in operating cash flow, a measurement of profitability.

The dinosaur thriller "Jurassic World" topped $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales in just 13 days, a record. It now ranks as the fourth highest earner in film history, with the high-octane "Furious 7" right behind.

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"We broke a long list of records," Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts told Wall Street analysts on a Thursday morning conference call. "Comcast-NBCUniversal has real positive momentum on many fronts."

The results at NBCUniversal underscored Comcast's long-held belief that with stronger management, an entertainment company could prosper even during turbulent times. Roberts said that NBCUniversal is on track to soon double the operating cash flow generated in 2009, when General Electric owned the television and movie company.

NBCUniversal generated $7.2 billion in revenue in the second quarter, an increase of 20%. Operating cash flow came in at $1.7 billion, an increase of 19.4%.  Revenue at the Universal movie unit was up 93% compared to the year-earlier period.

"Universal's film studio and theme parks may never be the center of gravity at a company as large as Comcast, but ... for now at least, the Universal tail is wagging the dog," Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett wrote in a report Thursday on Comcast earnings.

Universal Studios, the theme park unit, was also a stand-out performer. Parks revenue was up 25.7% to $773 million.  Operating cash flow increased nearly 45% to $354 million.

New attractions, including the Harry Potter extravaganza in Orlando, have been key to the park unit's success. NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke said the theme parks' quarterly results were "as good or even better than film."

"We see this as a major growth drive for the company for many years to come," Burke said. "There are lots of green lights as you look down the highway."

Meanwhile, results in television reflected the tighter times for the entire industry. The NBC broadcast unit was basically flat with $1.8 billion in revenue. Operating cash flow for broadcast came in at $231 million, a decline of 3.7%.

NBC cable channels, including USA, Bravo and CNBC, produced nearly $2.5 billion in revenue, down 1%. Operating cash flow was $872 million, a decline of nearly 5%.

Overall, Comcast beat analysts' expectations.

For the quarter ended June 30, Comcast produced net income of $2.14 billion, or 84 cents a share, up from $1.99 billion, or 76 cents a share, in the year earlier period. 

Analysts had predicted earnings of 84 cents a share.

Consolidated revenue grew 11.3% to $18.7 billion. The company reported $4.1 billion in operating income, an increase of 8%.

Comcast cable showed improved results in customer retention. The company lost 69,000 cable TV customers, but that marked a dramatic improvement over the second quarter of 2014.

Second quarters are typically the most difficult as students and families move and discontinue their cable service.

Comcast added 180,000 high-speed Internet subscribers during the quarter, a bit of a slowdown from the year-earlier period. The company signed up 49,000 new phone subscribers.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

 

 

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