Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), the largest operator in the United State, lost 165,000 pay-TV subscribers in the third quarter, a significant improvement from the 275,00 it lost a year ago, and fewer than the 191,000 forecast by analysts.
It's the fourth quarter in a row that Comcast has improved its customer defections, according to Brean, Murray, Carret & Co. analyst Todd Mitchell.
"Comcast offers a very good, very well-priced data product and a very satisfactory video product with lots of on-demand content," said Mitchell.
The company also reported a 51 percent increase in revenue from a year ago, to $14.3 billion, and net income of $908 million, or 33 cents per share, up 4.7 percent from a year ago.
One key to its growth came in the form of 261,000 high-speed Internet subscribers, 31,000 more than analysts predicted, which helped push operating income up 35 percent to $2.6 billion.
Comcast, which earlier this year completed its acquisition of NBCUniversal, saw mixed results from its entertainment unit, with revenue growing 4.6 percent from a year ago to $5.2 billion. Revenue at NBCU's cable division, which includes the likes of USA, Syfy, CNBC and Bravo, was up 12 percent, to $2.1 billion, with advertising revenue at those networks up 10 percent to $803 million. Broadcast ad revenue was flat.
"Unfortunately, the public face of NBC Universal is the broadcast network and that is just struggling," said Craig Moffett, an analyst with Sanford Bernstein. "The turnaround of a television network doesn't happen overnight. They are showing a lot of resolve but it is not an easy challenge."
Special Coverage: IPTV in the third quarter of 2011
IPTV subscriber numbers on a long path of continuing growth...for the big guys
Time Warner Cable loses 126,000 video subscribers in Q3
AT&T, Verizon pay-TV subscriber adds miss mark in Q3; will cable stutter, too?