As Comcast announced that their own subscribers would be getting their new Peacock service for free, it looks as if they will be paying for it in higher costs. The company said on Thursday that rate “adjustments” are planned for 2020, as cable customers continue to shed their bundled cable / internet packages in favor of streaming channels.
The company’s cable division continued to lose subscribers at a faster rate than expected in the fourth quarter, even though those losses slowed somewhat from a year ago. But the company is still ahead of Wall Street’s expectations. Even though Comcast’s fourth quarter results were dinged by lost cable subscribers and a terrible box office for the movie Cats, the company continued to add broadband subscribers, pushing its profits up 26 percent.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said that the company is now looking ahead to the July launch of its own streaming service, Peacock. “We needed to pivot the whole company to the streaming world and I think what’s exciting is how well our cable company has done that,” he said. “Peacock will go right back for the advertisers and get you in a growing market, taking advantage of streaming with a free product as well.”
Stephen Burke, the outgoing chairman of NBCUniversal, seems to think Comcast can be a major player in the streaming wars, despite being a somewhat late entry in the field. “I think our company is better positioned as the world moves to streaming than any other company in the world. We can make more money in streaming than anyone else,” Burke said during a conference call following the earnings report.
The company’s cable division lost 149,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2019, even though it delayed its planned rate increases to 2020. Comcast added 442,000 broadband subscribers in Q4, which is way ahead of the 378,000 Wall Street was expecting.
As for the entertainment division, even though Cats bombed at the box office, Comcast’s NBCUniversal segment (which includes NBC Entertainment and Universal Pictures) saw revenue of $9.15 billion, a decline of about 2.6 percent from the year-ago quarter. The filmed entertainment division saw revenue drop 21 percent from a year ago to $1.6 billion.
The company’s filing doesn’t specifically reference Cats, instead pointing to “lower theatrical revenue” for the quarter. It also points out the “volume and strength of releases in last year’s fourth quarter,” citing Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch and Halloween as strong 2018 performers for the filmed entertainment division.