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Comcast beat Wall Street’s estimates for revenue and profit in the first quarter, powered by growth in its pay-television and internet businesses and strong box office performance for films including the latest installment in the 50 Shades of Grey series.

Net income at the largest US cable group, which owns the NBC TV networks and the Universal film studio, jumped 20 per cent to $2.6bn, or 53 cents a share, in the first quarter, from $2.1bn, or 42 cents a share a year ago. Wall Street analysts had expected earnings of 45 cents, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Revenue rose 9 per cent to $20.5bn, ahead of the $20.1bn forecast by analysts. In the cable and internet business, Comcast’s biggest division, revenue increased 6 per cent to $12.9bn.

The company gained a net 297,000 subscribers in the first three months of the year, up from 271,000 customers in the same period a year ago. It added 42,000 video subscribers, fewer than the 47,000 analysts expected. An increase of 429,000 high-speed internet customers came in ahead of estimates of 411,000.

Comcast has shown resilience in the face of increasing competition from online video services. It added pay-TV customers last year for the first time in a decade and has been investing in technology and customer service to woo consumers. Earlier this month, in a bid to boost customer loyalty, Comcast launched a new wireless operator. The company hopes some of its 30m cable customers will add mobile service to their plans, making it less likely that they will switch cable and internet providers.

At NBCUniversal, revenue rose 15 per cent to $7.9bn and adjusted earnings grew 24 per cent to $2bn. That was led by gains at the film studio, where revenue jumped 43 per cent to $1.98bn and adjusted earnings more than doubled to $368m, powered by the success of 50 Shades Darker, the thriller Split and the horror-comedy Get Out. Comcast benefitted from a comparison with 2016’s relatively weak slate of film releases.

Revenues at NBC’s cable and broadcast networks were boosted by higher fees paid by cable providers to carry the channels. The cable division, which include MSNBC and Bravo, rose 8 per cent to $2.6bn, while broadcast revenues were up 6 per cent to $2.2bn. However, advertising sales fell 3 per cent at the cable channels and were up just 0.3 per cent for broadcast.

Revenue at theme parks rose 9 per cent to $1.1bn, as Comcast bought the remaining 49 per cent of Universal Studios Japan it did not already own for $2.3bn.

Shares in Comcast, up 27 per cent over the past 12 months, rose 0.8 per cent in pre-market tradng.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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