Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

NBC Reruns on Netflix Boost Comcast’s Bottom Line

Netflix is trying its hand at producing new TV shows, like “Lilyhammer.” But it is spending the vast majority of its ballooning content budget buying old stuff.

A good reminder of that comes from today’s Comcast earnings report, where the cable giant notes that its NBC broadcast unit posted a $305 million bump in licensing fees last year, “primarily the result of a licensing agreement for prior season and library content.”

Comcast doesn’t identify which agreement that was, but people familiar with the company say it was the “multi-year” renewal agreement that Netflix and NBC Universal announced last July. That deal gives Netflix subs access to shows like “The Office” and “Parenthood.”

Comcast generated $55.8 billion in revenue last year, so that $300 million barely qualifies as a drop in a bucket. But it is a profitable drop, since licensing revenue is basically found money with big fat margins.

And given that woeful NBC saw revenue drop 7.1 percent last year to $6.4 billion,* that money is nice to have.

Meanwhile, a quick check on Comcast’s cable business: It lost 17,000 video subscribers in the last quarter, which Comcast executives say is a great result, because it’s the lowest quarterly drop they’ve had in five years. And the company added 336,000 broadband customers.

*Some of that drop is because the network saw a boost from the Olympics in 2010.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work