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Comcast’s third-quarter profit doubled thanks to Tokyo Olympics and theme parks

Revenues at the NBCUniversal unit rose nearly 58% to $10 billion, including $1.8 billion from the Summer Games.

Revenues at the NBCUniversal unit rose nearly 58% to $10 billion, including $1.8 billion from the Tokyo Olympics. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Revenues at the NBCUniversal unit rose nearly 58% to $10 billion, including $1.8 billion from the Tokyo Olympics. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)Read moreEugene Hoshiko / AP

Comcast’s third-quarter profits doubled to $4 billion, boosted by the broadcast of the Olympics and the slow return to normalcy as more tourists went back to theme parks.

After COVID-19 upended NBCUniversal last year, the media and entertainment unit saw revenues rise 58% to $10 billion during the quarter, the company reported Thursday. The broadcast of the Tokyo Olympics, postponed a year by the pandemic, provided $1.8 billion in revenue alone and accounted for the majority of the media unit’s revenue rise compared to the same period last year.

Universal Studios theme parks had their most profitable quarter since the start of the health crisis as Americans returned to resorts in larger numbers. Revenue from parks jumped to $1.4 billion from $385 million in the third quarter last year. The Orlando park reported its most profitable quarter ever, Comcast CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts said.

Overall, Comcast posted profit of 86 cents per share, up from 44 cents per share posted during the July to September period last year. That beat analysts’ expectations by 11 cents per share, according to Reuters. Comcast shares closed at $51.90 Thursday, down just over 1%.

On the other hand, Comcast’s cable business signed up fewer customers from July through September compared to the prior year. More Americans were holed up at home at the time because of the pandemic, relying on internet service to entertain themselves or work remotely.

The Philadelphia-based company netted 300,000 broadband customers, fewer than half of the 633,000 signed up a year earlier. The broadband customer gain was lower than the third quarter in 2019, too.

During an earnings call, Comcast executives said they are still confident in the long-term view of the broadband business, which was booming before the pandemic. Dave Watson, the head of Comcast’s cable unit, said the company saw slower growth from low-income customers and fewer people moving to new homes than earlier this year. The company expects broadband net additions to finish the year at 2019 levels, the second best year on record, he said.

“There’s a really long runway of growth in broadband,” Watson said. “We’re in a good position for the future, so we haven’t changed our view on the long term trajectory of the connectivity business.”

Comcast continued to shed pay TV customers, losing 408,000. Still, overall cable revenues rose 7.4% to $16.1 billion, helped by the most wireless customer additions since the launch of Xfinity Mobile in 2017.

Comcast’s streaming service Peacock added “a few million more” monthly active accounts, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said. The company did not share specific numbers. Peacock was expected to get a boost from its live coverage of the Olympics.

Earlier this month, Comcast rolled out its latest plan to remain a fixture in living rooms: internet-connected TVs. The company is selling TVs in Walmarts across the U.S. in partnership with Hisense, a Chinese electronics maker. Comcast is also selling smart TVs in Europe through Sky, its U.K.-based pay TV provider. Sky’s revenues were up 4.9% to nearly $5 billion.

The TVs, which allow customers to access their cable or streaming subscriptions through Comcast’s operating system, are a “natural evolution” for the company, Roberts said.

“It’s an embodiment of what we do well, which is [content] aggregation,” Roberts said. “We’re going to find a way for consumers to get to what they want faster, personalize it, and have fun along the way. And then it’s a platform for innovation on a go forward basis for where we think television may evolve, whether it’s gaming, whether it’s fitness, health care, education.”