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Comcast delivers strong quarter; NBCUniversal revenue up 17%

August 3, 2011 |  7:32 am

 As with life, when it comes to the purchase of media companies, timing is key.

Comcast Corp. on Wednesday delivered strong-second quarter earnings, led by the company's core businesses of providing cable television and high-speed Internet service to its more than 20 million customers.

But its newly acquired media company, NBCUniversal, also shined as each of its entertainment divisions Fi-nbc4-span turned in double-digit revenue growth. NBCUniversal revenue jumped 17% to $5.2 billion -- a much stronger performance than what the company had been mustering in recent quarters when General Electric Co. was in control.

Comcast completed its acquisition of a 51% interest in NBCUniversal in late January, more than 14 months after it structured its joint-venture deal with GE. At that time, some of NBCUniversal's businesses, primarily its broadcast network, appeared on the ropes.

"Our timing was just right," Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts told analysts in a morning conference call. 

NBCUniversal primarily benefited from a much healthier advertising market as well as the continued success of its cable television channels. GE continues to hold a 49% stake, but it plans to exit the media company completely in the coming years. 

For the quarter ended June 30, NBCUniversal's revenue of $5.2 billion compared with $4.4 billion in the second quarter of 2010. The company's operating cash flow of $1 billion was up 5.2% from the previous-year period. 

NBCUniversal's cable channels, including USA Network, Syfy, E! and Bravo, led the way with $2.2 billion in revenue -- up 12.6% from the previous-year period. The broadcast television division, including the fourth-place NBC network, collected $1.7 billion in revenue, an 18.5% climb from 2010.

The company's Los Angeles-based film studio, Universal Pictures, generated $1.3 billion -- an increase of 21% from the year-earlier period. The Universal theme parks, buoyed by the success of the Harry Potter attraction in its Orlando, Fla., park, took in $147 million -- 22.5% more revenue than in the previous-year period. 

"The bottom line is we are off to a very strong start," said NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke. "We are making investments, and they are starting to work."

Analysts, however, expressed concern that the advertising market might take another hit as the economy appears to be flat-lining -- again. Burke said the company saw ad revenue increases in the second quarter, but "we are obviously concerned about the economy, as you would expect us to be."

Comcast, as a whole, posted revenue of $14.3 billion, an increase of 50% over the year-earlier period. The higher revenue was attributed to the consolidation of NBCUniversal as well as strong operating results.  

Comcast's operating income was up 41% to $2.9 billion or 37 cents a share. That compared with $2.1 billion, or 31 cents a share, for the second quarter of 2010.


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-- Meg James 

Photo: Associated Press