EARNINGS CALL

Comcast Execs Optimistic For Olympics This Year

Even without the expected boost from carrying Olympics coverage, Peacock remains well ahead of internal projections and hit 33 million signups this week. Fourth quarter broadcast revenues were down 12% to $2.78 billion, partially offset by double-digit increases in retransmission consent fees.

With the 2020 Summer Olympics already postponed to 2021, rumblings are being heard about whether it will even be possible for the games to take place this year in Japan. But in Comcast’s quarterly conference call with Wall Street analysts Thursday morning, Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts called it “an amazing moment for the world to come together” amid the pandemic and struck an optimistic tone.

“Sitting here today, I believe there will be an Olympics. I hope there will be an Olympics. I think that’s our best intelligence at this time, and we’re excited about that. I think it can be done in a variety of ways, as we’ve seen sporting events all over the world take place — from Premier League to the NFL and may others — with limited spectators, no spectators, or wherever the world may be in Japan in July. That’ll be up to the host country, the host committee,” Roberts told the analysts.

“In the event it doesn’t happen, we have another Olympics coming in Beijing seven months later,” Roberts said of the worst-case scenario.

“I think advertisers are also optimistic that the Olympics are coming,” added NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell. He noted that more and more advertisers are committing to Olympics buys across the NBCU platforms of cable, broadcast and Peacock streaming.

“Anything can happen in this COVID world. We don’t know what’s going to happen. But we’re pretty comfortable that the Olympics are going to happen and the advertisers are jumping in and agreeing with Brian’s sentiments,” Shell said.

Even without the expected boost from carrying Olympics coverage, Peacock remains well ahead of internal projections and hit 33 million signups this week. Going forward, beginning with the current first quarter, Comcast will be reporting financial results for the broadcast business, cable networks and Peacock as a broad, united television business.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Broadcast revenues were down 12% to $2.78 billion in the final quarter of 2020.  That was primarily attributed to a 38.6% decline in content licensing — largely timing related — and a 9.6% drop in advertising revenue. Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh noted that was partially offset by another quarter of double-digit increases in retransmission consent fees.

“The decline in advertising revenue was driven by lower ratings, partly due to the delay in the launch of our fall season. This was somewhat offset by record levels of political advertising at our local stations,” Cavanagh noted.

Comcast Cable’s local advertising business also got a big boost from political advertising. Fourth quarter advertising was up 33.8% to $955 million. Excluding political, that gain was only 2.2%.


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