Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable company and the owner of NBC Universal, said first-quarter profit rose 17 percent as U.S. residential video subscriber revenue increased at the highest rate in four years.
Net income climbed to $1.44 billion, or 54 cents a share, from $1.22 billion, or 45 cents, a year earlier, the company said today in a statement. Excluding a gain on an asset sale, earnings were 51 cents a share, in line with the average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg.
Comcast’s video revenue rose 3.7 percent to $5.1 billion, boosted by a rate increase on 72 percent of its customers. The higher fees helped mitigate a loss of 60,000 cable-TV subscribers in the quarter. The Philadelphia-based company added 433,000 high-speed Internet and 211,000 phone customers, better than analysts had predicted.
“Comcast reported an impressive quarter today,” Bryan Kraft, an analyst at Evercore Partners Inc., said in a note to clients. “Voice net adds were much stronger than expected,” said Kraft, who rates the shares the equivalent of buy.
Comcast shares rose 1.4 percent to $41.86 at the close in New York. The stock has gained 12 percent this year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has added 11 percent.
Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had projected an average loss of 25,000 video subscribers and a gain of 144,000 phone customers. While some video-only customers canceled service after the rate increase, others switched to Comcast’s triple-play bundle of TV, Internet and phone. More than 40 percent of Comcast customers now take all three products.
Time Warner Cable Inc. said last week it was moving away from marketing its triple-play package in favor of matching customers with only the products they want. Comcast is committed to its pushing its triple-play offering, Neil Smit, an executive vice president, said during a conference call today, noting that triple-play customers are less probable to cancel service.
Still, Comcast’s 60,000 video-customer loss widened from 37,000 a year earlier, reversing a trend. Comcast had narrowed the losses in the previous nine quarters.
First-quarter sales rose 2.9 percent to $15.3 billion, missing the average analyst estimate of $15.4 billion.
NBC Universal revenue fell 2.4 percent to $5.34 billion. Excluding the 2012 Super Bowl, which bolstered advertising revenue in the year-earlier period, sales rose 2.4 percent. CBS aired the game this year.
NBC struggled to improve broadcast ratings in the first quarter after “Sunday Night Football” and “The Voice” ended their seasons. Broadcast TV revenue fell more than 18 percent to $1.52 billion and declined 5.3 percent excluding the Super Bowl.
Cable-network revenue, meanwhile, rose 4.6 percent to about $2.2 billion. Film sales climbed 2 percent to $1.22 billion.
Comcast repurchased $500 million in shares in the quarter. Comcast also spent $16.7 billion to acquire the remaining 49 percent of NBC Universal from General Electric Co. in March.