Comcast feels sting of pandemic as theme parks, movie studio squeezed

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Comcast saw a 19 percent drop in third-quarter revenue at its NBCUniversal unit as the coronavirus continued to wreak havoc on its theme parks and movie business.

The Philadelphia-based cable giant — which owns the Xfinity cable and internet business, as well as NBCUniversal, Universal Pictures and various Universal theme parks — said third-quarter net income fell 37 percent to $2.02 billion, or 44 cents a share from $3.22 billion, or 70 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue slipped 4.8 percent to $25.53 billion from $26.83 billion. Wall Street expected EPS of 52 cents on revenue of $24.72 billion.

At NBCUniversal, which includes the theme parks, cable networks, TV network NBC and Universal Pictures, revenue fell 19 percent to $6.72 billion. At Universal Studios theme parks, revenue plummeted 80.9 percent to $311 million in quarter from $1.63 billion, a year earlier. The pandemic has kept Comcast-owned parks in California closed since March. At parks that are open in Florida in Japan, there is limited capacity, putting a chokehold on revenue. As a result, the company has laid off thousands of workers in order to keep costs in check.

Beyond theme parks, the largest decliner was Universal Pictures, which posted a 25 percent decline in revue to $1.28 billion. Hollywood studios have delayed most of their biggest films this year as the pandemic has caused movie theaters to operate at limited capacity or shutdown completely. Universal recently delayed the new James Bond movie, “No Time to Die” from Nov. 12 to April 2, 2021. It also pushed “Fast & Furious” franchise “F9” from May 2020 to May 2021.

Elsewhere, cable networks revenue fell 1.3 percent to $2.7 billion on lower distribution and advertising sales, as broadcast revenue grew 8.3 percent to $2.4 billion on higher content licensing revenue.

Comcast’s broadband business partially offset weaker areas of the business, as more house-bound consumers are working from home and rely on high-speed internet. The company added 633,000 subscribers. The firm said its cable unit, which includes internet and phone business, posted a 2.9 percent increase in revenue to $15 billion.

Overall, Comcast’s cable unit — which includes a phone business — posted a 2.9-percent increase in revenue to $15 billion.

The company also touted the successful launch of Peacock, its new streaming service, which has garnered nearly 22 million sign-ups since July 15.

Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts said Thursday that despite the pandemic’s challenges, the company is “executing at the highest level,” adding that he believes “accelerating innovation” will “drive long-term future growth.”

Even so, NBCUniversal has been going through a rough period of steep cost cuts and layoffs, related to both the coronavirus pandemic and the realignment of its TV-content-producing operations to give priority to Peacock. Top talent has exited and a new leadership structure has emerged under NBCU CEO Jeff Shell, but the company is not out of the woods yet, as layoffs continue to trickle through the end of the year.

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