Comcast reported fourth-quarter 2021 earnings Thursday, beating Wall Street’s expectations on both revenue and earnings. NBCUniversal revenue was $9.3 billion, up 25.6% from the previous year’s Q4, and studio sales were up more than 36%.
In the quarter ended Dec. 31, NBCUniversal revenue increased 25.6% to $9.3 billion. Media revenue increased 8.4% to $5.8 billion, with advertising sales up 6% and distribution revenue rising 11.6%. The segment saw a $559 million loss related to Peacock, which Comcast says hit 24.5 million monthly active accounts (MAAs) in Q4. (For the full year, Peacock lost $1.7 billion on an adjusted basis.)
This is the first update we’ve received on Peacock’s user activity since last July, when Comcast said it had reached 54 million total signups since its debut in April 2020, and generated more than 20 million monthly active users during the second quarter of 2021. When delivering its Q3 results last fall, Comcast declined to offer a total number of signups or MAUs for Peacock, and for Thursday’s Q4 release, the company provided only the MAAs stat.
Studio revenue at NBCU jumped 36.4% to $2.421 billion on the success of the Q4 releases of Universal’s “Halloween Kills” and Illumination’s “Sing 2.” Universal has tested out several release strategies during the pandemic, putting some titles like “Halloween Kills” on Peacock on the same day as its theatrical release, while keeping others like “Sing 2” exclusively on the big screen.
Given Universal’s established revenue-sharing agreement with movie theater chains, including AMC and Cinemark, the studio intends to keep its biggest movies in cinemas for at least 17 days before putting them on digital platforms. Other Hollywood studios, including Disney, Warner Bros. and Paramount, have converged on lengthier theatrical windows around 45 days, but those companies do not have to share in the digital profits with exhibitors.
Though family audiences have been slower to return, “Sing 2” managed to sell tickets against Sony’s box office behemoth “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” The Illumination musical sequel generated $128 million domestically and $241 million globally, making it the highest-grossing animated film in pandemic times. Despite its hybrid release on Peacock, “Halloween Kills” had a good turnout (by COVID standards), collecting $92 million in North America and $131 million worldwide.
Revenue at Comcast’s theme parks rose to $1.9 billion, up 191%, as the facilities saw business improve from the year-earlier quarter, when they had to close or open to only a limited number of customers. The most recent quarter was the segment’s most profitable Q4 ever, generated adjusted earnings of $674 million, driven by growth in attendance and spending per guest at parks in the U.S. and Japan, as attendance in other regions “remained constrained due to COVID-19,” Comcast said.
The company’s cable operations revenue rose 4.5% to $16.4 billion. Comcast said it added 212,000 new broadband subscribers and 17,000 business customers during the quarter, as it lost 373,000 traditional video consumers and 176,000 voice customers.
Revenue for Sky fell 2.4% to $5.1 billion, Comcast said.
Overall, Comcast’s Q4 2021 revenue was $30.3 billion, up 9.5% versus the year-earlier period. The company posted net income of $3.057 billion and adjusted earnings of 77 cents per share, compared to $3.4 billion and 56 cents in the comparable quarter in 2020. Wall Street analysts on average expected Comcast to report revenue of $29.61 billion and EPS of 73 cents for the year-end quarter, per Refinitiv data.
“Comcast’s strong operating and financial performance in 2021 was underscored by our highest full-year revenue, adjusted EBITDA, adjusted EPS, and free cash flow on record,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a prepared statement accompanying the financials. “Our top priority is increasing the capacity of our network in the U.S. and further improving our world-class broadband experience.”
Roberts continued, “We are producing more of the premium content that our viewers love and continue to provide them with multiple ways to access it, including on Peacock while ramping construction of [the[ Epic Universe [theme park] and welcoming even more guests to our Theme Parks. And, significantly, we are expanding the reach of our proprietary global technology platform and addressable customer base, starting with Sky Glass and XClass TV. Our confidence in the future is reflected in today’s announcement that we are increasing the dividend for the 14th consecutive year.”
Comcast stock closed Wednesday at $48.39 per share. The regular U.S. stock markets will reopen at 9:30 a.m. ET. Roberts and other Comcast executives will host a conference call at 8:30 a.m. ET to discuss the quarter in greater detail.