Comcast Corp. came this close to reversing video subscriber losses during its fourth quarter, but it still shed 7,000 of them.
On the plus side, the company struck an early deal to acquire the rest of the NBCUniversal LLC joint venture from General Electric for about $16.7 billion.
First, that subscriber number, which came out with Comcast's earnings Tuesday. It improved on the 17,000 video subs the operator lost in the year-ago quarter, marking the ninth straight quarter of improvements in the troublesome category. Comcast ended 2012 with 21.99 million video subs.
Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts told the Associated Press that the MSO would have added video subs in the quarter if it weren't for Superstorm Sandy.
Comcast also improved in other key subscriber categories. It added 341,000 high-speed Internet subs in the fourth quarter, extending that total to 19.36 million, and signed on 168,000 voice customers, giving it a total of 9.95 million.
On the financial end, Comcast posted a fourth quarter profit of $1.52 billion (56 cents per share) on revenues of $15.94 billion. Analysts were expecting a profit of 53 cents per share on revenues of $16 billion.
Comcast business services revenues for 2012 rose 34.2 percent, to $2.4 billion. On the flip side, Comcast's expansion of business services and its continued network investments caused capex to rise $115 million, or 2.4 percent, to $4.9 billion for year.
Earnings were just part of Comcast's busy Tuesday afternoon, as it also announced that it will acquire GE's 49 percent equity stake in NBCU, almost a year-and-a-half ahead of schedule. Comcast struck its original deal for NBCU on Dec. 3, 2009. (See Comcast to Take Control of NBC Universal.)
NBCU is also buying from GE the properties the media giant is using at the fabled "30 Rock" building in New York City, and CNBC's headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., for $1.4 billion.
Comcast is funding all of this with $11.4 billion in cash, $4 billion of subsidiary senior unsecured notes to be issued to GE, $2 billion of borrowings under Comcast and/or subsidiary bank credit facilities, and $725 million of subsidiary preferred stock to be issued to GE.
Comcast shares were up $2.63 (6.75 percent) to $41.60 in after-hours trading Tuesday.
â€” Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable