Insights

Comcast: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is one of the biggest media companies in the world, offering cable and internet service, theme parks, video streaming, and more under its corporate umbrella. That should make it diversified enough to withstand the kind of economic turbulence we’re seeing in 2022. 

But the second-quarter financial results released this week present a peculiar picture of the business. Its theme parks and studios are recovering from their pandemic-era declines. Yet, other areas where it should be growing, such as streaming, are falling flat. This quarter had a little good, some bad, and one really ugly segment for Comcast

Image source: Getty Images.

The good news for Comcast

Cable TV may get a lot of disrespect for being a legacy service, but it’s still a core business for Comcast, and it’s still incredibly lucrative. Revenue was up 3.7% to $16.6 billion in the cable communications segment, and net cash flow rose 4.4% to $5.3 billion. 

Broadband was the highlight with a 6.8% increase in revenue to $6.1 billion, but business services revenue rose 10.1% and advertising sales increased 10.2%. The big surprise was that its wireless revenue jumped 29.8% to $722 million as Comcast is bundling wireless service with more of its products. 

The cable business may not be where investors expect growth to come from, but it’s surprisingly strong given the attention streaming gets today. 

Another positive was the theme park segment. Those seem to be doing well across the industry. In Q2, Comcast’s theme park revenue was up 64.8% to $1.8 billion from 2021’s pandemic-diminished levels, and adjusted EBITDA jumped by 186.5% to $632 million. 

The bad in media

What is not doing well is the regular media business at NBCUniversal. Media revenue was up by just 2.6% to $5.3 billion, adjusted EBITDA fell by 2.9% to $1.3 billion, and advertising revenue fell 1.3%. 

Studio revenue was a fairly impressive $3.0 billion on the back of the release of Jurassic World: Dominion, but adjusted EBITDA was just $1 million, a plunge that the company attributed to higher operating expenses. That was hardly an impressive result for a content business that should be in a great position to produce content for theaters, TV and cable networks, and streaming services. 

It’s getting ugly at Peacock

Peacock was supposed to be Comcast’s big move into streaming, but the service is struggling to gain traction. Its subscriber total was about flat at 13 million, and while it had revenues of $444 million in the quarter, it booked an adjusted EBITDA loss of $467 million. 

For comparison, as of the end of last quarter, Disney‘s (NYSE: DIS) Disney+ service had 137.7 million subscribers, and Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) had 220.7 million. 

Comcast’s challenge

I’m actually really impressed with Comcast’s cable business, but the areas where management has been investing for growth aren’t showing the hoped-for results. Peacock may never be a success, and its failure extends to network services the company offers online as well. 

There aren’t likely to be a dozen major streaming services, so Comcast may be faced with some hard decisions soon. It has valuable content, but other streamers may be able to monetize it better than Peacock can. Sometimes trying to be everything to everyone is the wrong strategy, and Comcast may need to decide quickly if it’s better off taking a more focused approach to the media business. 

Travis Hoium has positions in Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Comcast and recommends the following options: long January 2024 $145 calls on Walt Disney and short January 2024 $155 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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