Comcast adds 24K video subscribers, bucking downward trend

Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) do-everything X1 platform must be doing something right. The country's top MSO says it added 24,000 video customers in the first quarter of 2014, marking the second straight quarter with video customer gains and bucking an industry trend going in the opposite direction.

Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts, in prepared comments detailing the results, said the new boxes provide an "unrivaled experience" for consumers who "really like this choice."

Evidence, he said, lies in the fact that "voluntary churn for our X1 customers is down 20 to 30 percent relative to our broader base while viewing has increased in both linear and true on-demand metrics." The results have encouraged Comcast to double the rate of X1 box deployment from just six months ago, now installing 15,000 to 20,000 boxes a day.

Additionally, in a trend that's more common across the cable space, the MSO added 383,000 high-speed Internet customers during the quarter.

Particularly important in the company's broadband policy is Wi-Fi which, Roberts said, adds "utility to our customers while at the same time helping us create the largest Wi-Fi footprint in the U.S."

The additions, along with success at Comcast's non-cable-related businesses, drove consolidated revenues 13.7 percent higher year-over-year to $17.4 billion. Cable Communications revenue during the quarter was up 5.3 percent to $10.8 billion (compared to $10.2 billion in the first quarter of 2013) with growth across all segments.

Broken down, Comcast said cable video revenue was up 1.3 percent to $5.18 billion; high-speed Internet climbed 9 percent to $2.75 billion; voice was up 2.1 percent to $920 million; and business services were up 23.9 percent to $914 million.

The non-cable portion of the business was driven by NBCUniversal, where revenue increased by 28.8 percent to $6.88 billion driven primarily by the Sochi Winter Olympics, which generated over $1.1 billion in ad revenues.

"Overall the company is performing well and the more planning we do for our proposed ($45.2 billion) merger with Time Warner Cable, the more excited we are by the opportunities for the combined company," Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts said in an earnings press release. "Comcast has tremendous momentum right now and we believe the TWC transaction will strengthen a truly world-class organization."

CFO Michael Angelakis expanded, slightly, on reports that Comcast would be divesting between 3 and 5 million subscribers to make the deal more palatable to regulators.

"We do not speculate on rumors," Angelakis cautioned during prepared remarks. On the other hand, he said that there are a "number of potential structures" by which Comcast would get rid of some of TWC's subscribers. But these would need to be done in a "tax-efficient way"--and in a way that maximizes Comcast's markets.

For more:
- see the earnings release

Related articles:
Netflix opposes Comcast-TWC merger, raises subscription by up to $2 in some markets
Comcast expected to ride Internet and sports to Q1 gains, but analysts wary of TWC merger
Comcast, Time Warner Cable reportedly discuss selling subscribers to Charter

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