Comcast adds video subscribers for first time in more than 6 years

Reversing a trend that had been going on for more than six years, Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) said it added 43,000 video subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2013 as part of an overall 29 percent year-over-year increase of 649,000 voice, video and high-speed data customers. Last year during the same quarter Comcast lost 7,000 video subscribers.

Comcast lost 305,000 video subscribers for the full year, while gaining 1.296 million high-speed Internet and 768,000 voice subs. In the fourth quarter, Comcast also gained 341,000 HSD (high speed digital) subs and 168,000 voice subs. Overall, the nation's top MSO now has 21.7 million video subs, 20.66 million HSD subs, and 10.72 million voice subs to make a combined subscriber base of 53.08 million.

Cable communications revenues were up 5.2 percent year-over-year ($10.7 billion compared to $10.1 billion in 2012), led by video revenues that increased 2.3 percent to $5.12 billion. HSD was up 8.7 percent to $2.65 billion, and voice revenues were up 3.7 percent to $928 million. For the year, video revenues were up 2.9 percent to $20.54 billion, HSD was up 8.3 percent to $10.33 billion and voice was up 2.8 percent percent to $3.66 billion.

Business services was also on the rise, up 25.3 percent for the quarter to $876 million and 26.4 percent for the year at $3.24 billion, but advertising revenue took a hit in the quarter, down 7.5 percent to $602 million and, for the year, down 4.2 percent to $2.189 billion.

The overall Comcast business, including NBCUniversal, grew 6.2 percent in the quarter from $15.94 billion in 2012 to $16.92 billion in 2013, and 3.3 percent annually from $62.57 billion to $64.66 billion.

"Our results highlight the momentum we have achieved and how we are benefiting from scale, our investment in innovative products and from our focus on operational excellence," Comcast Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts said in a press release. "Cable's operating metrics improved across video, high-speed Internet and voice for both the fourth quarter and full year, with a return to video subscriber growth in the fourth quarter. NBCUniversal had an outstanding year, with growth in broadcast, cable, film and parks."

The results reflected "better than expected subscriber trends across the board," Jonathan Chaplin, an analyst with New Street Research said in a research note. "Comcast remains the cleanest story in the communications services landscape with consistent, strong execution driving better than expected trends in both business segments."

Chaplin further wrote that he saw upside in Comcast's "potential to pick up new, undermanaged cable systems from TWC (Time Warner Cable) as well as the ability to "increase the value of cable advertising by creating larger, regional blocks through cable system trades with Charter Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR) and others."

For more:
- Comcast issued this earnings release

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