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#NBCUniversal’s Peacock Tops 20M Paid Subs, Streamer’s Loss Widens to $978M in Fourth Quarter

NBCUniversal’s Peacock Tops 20M Paid Subs, Streamer’s Loss Widens to $978M in Fourth Quarter

Peacock, the streaming service of Comcast’s entertainment unit NBCUniversal, grew its revenue and subscribers in the fourth quarter, but its loss widened again compared with the year-ago period.

Comcast’s earnings report for the final period of 2022 detailed quarterly financials for NBCUniversal, including higher advertising revenue in its media unit, European pay TV and technology giant Sky, as well as latest pay TV and broadband subscriber figures for its core cable systems business.

Comcast, led by chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, had previously reported that Peacock’s paid subscribers in the U.S. had “surpassed 15 million” as of the end of the third quarter. In early December, NBCU CEO Jeff Shell told investors that the streamer had by then hit 18 million. On Thursday, the company said U.S. paid subs surpassed the 20 million mark as of the end of 2022.

In its fourth-quarter financial report, Comcast also posted NBCU earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) that fell 36.3 percent to $817 million from $1.28 billion amid higher expenses, even though revenue rose 5.9 percent to $9.89 billion.

NBCU’s media unit results included $660 million of fourth-quarter revenue and an adjusted EBITDA loss of $978 million related to Peacock. That compared to $335 million of revenue and an adjusted EBITDA loss of $559 million related to the streamer in the prior-year period. The unit also said its advertising revenue increased 4 percent in the fourth, “primarily due to incremental revenue from the FIFA World Cup, as well as an increase in Peacock advertising revenue.”

Total media unit revenue for the latest quarter increased 2.6 percent to $6.0 billion, while adjusted EBITDA fell 81.7 percent to $132 million amid higher operating expenses. “The increase in operating expenses was primarily due to higher programming and production costs, reflecting higher costs at Peacock and higher sports programming costs associated with Telemundo’s broadcast of the FIFA World Cup,” the company said. 

Fourth-quarter revenue at NBCU’s studios unit increased 13.1 percent to $2.7 billion “due to higher content licensing and theatrical revenue.” The former jumped 15.9 percent, “primarily due to the timing of when content was made available by our film and television studios under licensing agreements, including additional sales of content as production levels returned to normal. Theatrical revenue shot up 47.3 percent, “primarily due to the successful performance of recent releases, including Ticket to Paradise, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Violent Night and Halloween Ends.

Quarterly adjusted EBITDA in the studios unit more than tripled to $160 million thanks to the higher revenue, which more than offset increased expenses due to an increase in advertising, marketing and promotion expenses “reflecting the size and timing of this quarter’s theatrical slate,” as well as higher programming and production expenses, “reflecting higher amortization of film production costs in the current year period.”

Quartelry revenue for NBCU’s theme parks division rose 12.0 percent to $2.1 billion, “primarily due to increased attendance and guest spending at our parks in the U.S. and Japan compared to the prior-year period.” Adjusted EBITDA increased 16.0 percent to $782 million due to the higher revenue, partially offset by higher operating expenses.

In Comcast’s cable systems unit, total customer relationships decreased by 71,000 to 34.3 million in the fourth quarter. Excluding the negative impact from Hurricane Ian, the firm estimated that total customer relationships decreased by 36,000. Its broadband customer base declined by 26,000, but it would have grown by 4,000 when excluding the negative impact from Hurricane Ian. In the year-ago period, Comcast had added 212,000 broadband subscribers. Total video customer net losses amounted to 440,000 in the fourth quarter, compared with a drop of 373,000 in the final quarter of 2021.

Sky’s revenue for the period decreased 13.0 percent to $4.4 billion. Excluding the impact of currency, revenue was unchanged from the prior-year quarter. Advertising revenue fell 9.6 percent to $564 million, “primarily reflecting lower revenue in the U.K., including the impact of the timing of the FIFA World Cup,” the company said. “Content revenue increased 6.5 percent to $304 million, primarily due to the timing of licensing our content to other platforms.” Adjusted EBITDA for Sky dropped 26.7 percent to $340 million, or 15.1 percent when excluding the impact of currency. The decline reflected higher operating expenses, “including $53 million in higher severance expense,” as well as higher direct network costs amid growth in the firm’s residential mobile and broadband businesses.

Sky’s total customer relationships increased by 129,000 to 23.1 million in the fourth quarter, leaving the full year 2022 up by 88,000.

In its third-quarter results, Comcast had recorded “noncash impairment charges related to goodwill and intangible assets in our Sky segment totaling $8.6 billion.”

Comcast on Thursday also unveiled an increase in its dividend by 8 cents per share, or 7.4 percent, to $1.16 per share on an annualized basis for 2023. 

I am proud of how our team executed throughout 2022,” said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Comcast Corporation. “We achieved the highest levels of Revenue, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EPS in our history and returned a record $17.7 billion of capital to shareholders. We delivered impressive revenue growth in broadband; grew wireless lines by 1.3 million, our best result since launch; more than doubled our Peacock subscribers, surpassing 20 million at year-end; nearly tripled Peacock revenue to $2.1 billion; ranked second in worldwide box office; and generated record Adjusted EBITDA at our theme parks. Importantly, we achieved these results while continuing to invest in broadband, our 10G network evolution, Xfinity Mobile, Peacock, and theme parks, and we also took cost actions to further our growth in the future. We are excited to begin the new year as an innovative leader in large profitable markets with a strong balance sheet and a strategy to drive incremental returns and bring outstanding content and experiences to our customers. The Board’s confidence in our position and path forward is underscored by today’s announcement that we are increasing our dividend for the 15th consecutive year.”

Thursday’s earnings call will mark the first for Michael Cavanagh since his promotion from the CFO role to the post of president.

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