Comcast could lose as many as 430,000 video subscribers in 2018, analyst says

Comcast
Despite the video business weakness, Comcast's broadband and NBC businesses are strong. (Comcast)

Comcast might be in store for a bumpy year, as one media analyst is predicting significant losses for the company’s video subscriber base.

Macquarie Capital’s Amy Yong is forecasting Comcast’s net video subscriber losses could total 123,000 during the third quarter and 430,000 for 2018.

“Competition from VMVPDs continues, accelerated by increased marketing spend; integration of third-party apps like Netflix/YouTube into the X1 platform should help,” Yong wrote in a research note.

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Losing 430,000 subscribers in 2018 would mark a significant acceleration over 2017, when Comcast lost a net 186,000 video subscribers, according to nScreenMedia analyst Colin Dixon. But losing 123,000 in the third quarter would represent a slight improvement over the same quarter one year ago, when Comcast lost 125,000 subscribers.

Comcast began fiscal 2018 on a strong start, at least relative to its pay TV competitors. The company was the only provider to add video subscribers; it added 42,000 while the industry as a whole coughed up 621,627, thanks in large part to AT&T’s DirecTV and Uverse platforms.

RELATED: Comcast officially the only top pay-TV operator to grow subscribers in Q1

But for many analysts, any uncertainty about Comcast’s video business was offset at least somewhat by positive results for the company’s high-speed internet and NBCUniversal businesses.

“Taken together, consensus estimates for EBITDA, earnings, and FCF are headed higher, and by more than just the beat from this quarter. The results bode well for Cable equities generally; they should help restore confidence in the bull thesis, characterized by strong broadband growth coupled with operating leverage and declining capital intensity, driving powerful growth in FCF,” wrote New Street Research analyst Jonathan Chaplin in a research note.

ScotiaBank analyst Jeff Fan saw long-term positives coming out of Comcast’s lower cable CPE capex.

“Since surpassing the 50% X1 penetration mark about a year ago, CMCSA's CPE capex has dropped 20% y/y driven by lower volume and lower unit cost. We believe this supports lower long-term capex intensity assumptions in valuing cable operators on the X1 platform,” Fan wrote in a note.

And while vMVPDs could be eating into Comcast’s video subscriber totals, the same services may be helping NBCUniversal’s bottom line, according to Jefferies analyst John Janedis.

“Comments on the strength of the ad performance were consistent with our expectations, with NBC CPMs up ~11% and cable nets up 7% to 9%,” Janedis wrote in a research note. “Improvement in sub losses to ~-1% from -1.5% to -2% helped by VMVPDs should help the negative narrative for those that are part of the packages (we view Comcast as un-droppable in future negotiations). LT, VMVPD churn will be a swing factor for subs.”

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