Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Comcast Banishes Cord-Cutting Fears

The biggest cable company in the country lost more subscribers last quarter. But if you think that’s a problem for Comcast, you’re wrong.

At least according to Comcast, which said it had nothing but good news to report today during its earnings call. And analysts, who didn’t ask the company about the losses. And investors, who are buying Comcast stock this morning and pushing it up 3.4 percent.

That’s because Comcast’s results are indeed quite good: Revenue and earnings beat estimates, and the company sweetened those results for shareholders by bumping up its dividend and buying back more stock.

At least as important: While the company lost 135,000 cable subscribers, those losses are smaller than they were a year ago, and smaller than the preceding quarter as well. And Comcast ended up adding nearly 700,000 subscribers overall, by adding more broadband and voice customers. And the customers it does have pay more than ever – revenue per subscriber was up 10.6 percent.

Comcast and its peers have put up similar numbers over the past year. And those reports were usually accompanied by questions of cord-cutting, and whether customers are really abandoning cable TV for some combination of Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV, etc.

But the cable industry has had a consistent response: Any drop in cable subs has to do with increased competition and a crummy economy, not a real shift in TV viewing habits.

And for now, at least, Wall Street seems OK with that answer: I don’t believe I heard “cord-cutting” mentioned once during Comcast’s call today.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald