Comcast (CMCSA) earnings Q1 2020: Profit drops nearly 40%

Comcast reported a nearly 40% drop in first-quarter profit on Thursday, despite significant bumps in its cable and broadband divisions as coronavirus restrictions kept customers at home.

Here’s how the company did:

  • EPS: 71 cents, adjusted
  • Revenue: $26.61 billion

Comcast shares fell as much as 7%, after being up as much as 2% in premarket trading, after the company said during its earnings call that it would lose about $500 million if theme parks remained closed through June. It also said advertising will be down “significantly” in the second quarter. Sky, which also helps drive advertising revenue through sports and other programming, took a hit during the quarter because customers can pause sports packages and it’s unclear when sports will resume.

Wall Street was anticipating earnings per share of 68 cents on revenue of $26.75 billion, based on Refinitiv consensus estimates. However, it’s difficult to compare reported earnings to analyst estimates for Comcast’s first quarter, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit global economies and makes earnings impact difficult to assess.

Comcast posted $2.1 billion in net income for the first quarter. That’s roughly 40% lower than the first quarter last year when Comcast earned more than $3.5 billion. Adjusted net income came in at $3.3 billion, a 6% dip year over year. The adjustments account for one-time items of investments, loss on early redemption of debt, costs related to the Sky transaction and amortization of acquisition-related intangible assets.

Comcast’s NBCUniversal segment, which includes broadcast and cable channels, as well as theme parks and studios, saw its revenue slide 7% to $7.7 billion in the first quarter. It was the Comcast segment hit the hardest during the quarter.

Still, Comcast saw a boost from its cable and broadband divisions as the coronavirus pandemic kept U.S. households mostly inside. Cable revenue jumped 4.5% year over year, helped by a 52% surge specifically in wireless revenue.

“Our digital tools have been instrumental during this time of need,” CEO Brian Roberts said in a call with investors. “The investments we have been making in our broadband products and network every single year are paying off.”

An 8.8% jump in broadcast TV revenue also helped to offset headwinds in other segments that felt particular impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“While parts of our business have been more impacted by COVID-19 than others, we have continued to innovate. We are distributing our content in new ways, as evidenced by the recent launch of Peacock on X1 and Flex,” Roberts said in the release. 

Covid-19 headwinds

Comcast’s film entertainment revenue fell 22.5% year over year, bringing in $1.4 billion in total revenue, and theme park revenue fell 31.9%, hurt by park closures and accounting for just $869 million in total revenue. The company temporarily shut down its Universal theme parks, which brought in $1.56 billion in total revenue last quarter.

If theme parks remain closed through June, Cavanagh said the company expects a $500 million EBITDA loss.

“There is no doubt that our theme parks will reopen and, when we do, I believe we’ll benefit from strong pent up demand,” Roberts said. 

Universal also delayed some of its movies, including “Fast and Furious,” a potential blockbuster that was originally scheduled to premiere in May. But Universal has also had some success with new movies. This month, it released “Trolls World Tour” through various streaming and on-demand services as a digital rental instead of in theaters. The company said this week the movie generated $100 million in revenue so far.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh said in the earnings call that he expects film revenue to decline “substantially,” with the bulk of that coming in the second and third quarters. 

The company also took a hit to advertising revenue, which analysts have warned could take a toll on global scale.

Ad revenue fell 2.2% during the quarter, “reflecting audience ratings declines and reduced advertiser spending resulting from the postponement of sports events due to COVID-19, partially offset by higher pricing,” the company said. 

Cavanagh said he expects advertising to be down “significantly” in the second quarter. 

Global sporting events were paused or canceled during the quarter in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus, essentially halting live sports programming. The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, for example, were postponed to 2021, which could put pressure on Comcast’s annual revenue, as its NBCUniversal division is the sole provider of broadcast rights for the games.

Roberts said that he believes the return of sports on-air will be met with enthusiasm, regardless of whether the stadiums are filled or not. 

The company said Sky, the British broadcaster it acquired in 2018, saw a revenue decrease of 5.8% to $4.5 billion in the first quarter of 2020. Comcast cited lower direct-to-consumer revenue, advertising revenue and content revenue.

Sky saw its customer relationships decrease by 65,000 to 23.9 million in the quarter, which the company said is due to the postponement of sports events and the suspension of certain sales channels due to the coronavirus.

Comcast’s overall total customer relationships is up 2.6%, however, adding 371,000 cable customers during the quarter. The company added 477,000 high-speed internet customers. Comcast said it noted a 33% increase in internet traffic and a 40% increase in wireless data usage over Wi-Fi during the quarter.

The company warned of more pressure to come in the second quarter as global lockdowns drag on a U.S. economic downturn threatens spending. 

“Our Cable Communications results, while strong in the first quarter 2020, will be negatively affected in the second quarter by the significant deterioration in domestic economic conditions in recent weeks and by the costs associated with our support of customer connectivity as the population increasingly works and learns remotely from home,” the company said. “NBCUniversal and Sky results also will be negatively impacted to a greater extent in the second quarter 2020. As a result, we expect the impacts of COVID-19 to increase in significance in the second quarter 2020 and to have a material adverse impact on our consolidated results of operations over the near-to-medium term.”

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.

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