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Cable Technology Feature Article

February 15, 2012

Comcast Stock Rises As Fewer Customers Defect to Satellite

By Jacqueline Lee, Contributing Writer

Comcast (News - Alert) stock jumped eight percent before regular trading based on reports that only 17,000 customers defected to satellite or phone companies during the fourth quarter of 2011. In the fourth quarter of 2010, Comcast lost 135,000 subscribers.

This year’s numbers represented the lowest number of defections in five years, which is good news for Comcast shareholders. The cable giant credits better channel selection and improved customer service for driving its retention numbers.

“The stronger-than-expected result likely owes, in equal measure, to solidly improving operations — a better and better video product — and the tailwind of a nascent recovery in new household formation,” said analyst Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research. “The psychological importance of video subscriber strength, not just for cable but indeed for the whole pay TV sector, cannot be overstated. The fear of cord cutting is fading.”

Comcast also reported an increase in its number of broadband subscribers. Comcast added 336,000 new households to its rosters at a time when most phone and cable companies are reporting sagging numbers due to market saturation. AT&T (News - Alert) and Verizon, in contrast, added only 51,000 new broadband customers collectively during the same period.

The company also plans to hike its dividend up 44 percent, to 65 cents per share instead of 45 cents per share. Comcast also announced plans for a $6.5 billion stock repurchase, which will increase cash to shareholders approximately 45 percent over 2011 levels. Net income for Q4 yielded $1.29 billion, which exceeded analysts’ expectations. The company’s earnings in Q4 of 2010 were only $1.02 billion.

Investors Business Daily is reporting that cable stocks right now are a bargain. “Investors are just beginning to see cable stocks in a new light,” said Moffett. “They're solid growth companies, more like staples than cyclicals, and they're still trading a huge discount. Comcast is still the industry's standard bearer, and it's fulfilling the role awfully well.”

Comcast’s better than expected performance also came as a result of its acquisition of a majority share in NBC Universal (News - Alert). CEO Brian L. Roberts credited record viewership of the Super Bowl and successful launch of the series “The Voice” as major generators of revenue for the company.

Jacqueline Lee is a TMCnet contributor who produces web content, blogs and articles for numerous websites including wikiHow.com. Her background is in business and education.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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