Comcast (US)

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Comcast is America's leading cable television operator, now under the Xfinity brand, and also one of the world's biggest media owners following the acquisition of NBC Universal. That deal followed several earlier attempts to build a content offering, initially through the bolt-on of its own portfolio of cable channels. An ambitious bid to acquire Walt Disney came to nothing in 2004, but five years later the group entered talks with General Electric to acquire a controlling stake in the latter's NBC Universal subsidiary. A deal was agreed at the end of 2009, and was finally cleared by regulators at the beginning of 2011, giving Comcast management control of one of America's most famous TV networks as well as a major movie studio. Despite NBC Universal's continuing challenges, the group bought out GE's remaining stake in NBCU in 2013, more than a year earlier than expected. In Feb 2014, Comcast offered to acquire smaller rival Time Warner Cable for $45bn in a deal that would have merged the #1 and #2 cable networks in the US. Despite more than a year of negotiations with regulators, the deal was eventually abandoned in Apr 2015 after it was referred by the FCC to an administrative hearing.

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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Jun 2017: In a development that was first anticipated last month, US cable leaders Comcast and Charter have opened exclusive joint negotiations with the country's 4th largest mobile provider Sprint. Under discussion is some form of arrangement whereby the two cable companies could swap existing MVNO arrangements with Verizon for more favourable terms from Sprint, possibly in exchange for an equity involvement, or even a joint takeover of the business. According to reports, Charter's controlling shareholder John Malone favours the acquisition of Sprint, but has yet to convince Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Sprint, owned by Japanese company Softbank, has a current value of around $32bn, and the same amount again in debt. Separately, it has been pursuing talks with rival T-Mobile over a possible merger. Those negotiations have been put on pause for the time being, pending a deal with Comcast and Charter.

Adbrands Weekly Update 11th May 2017: America's two leading cable companies have formed their own alliance to push back against the moves by Verizon and AT&T into entertainment programming. Comcast and Charter will share resources and technology as they launch their own branded wireless services, initially on an MVNO basis through bandwidth from Verizon. They have agreed not to make any material merger or acquisition within the telecoms sector without the other’s consent for at least a year. Analysts believe that the partnership might result in a shared bid for one of the two smaller wireless carriers, T-Mobile USA and Sprint.

Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Feb 2017: Comcast reported a strong set of results for 2016, which included the company's first net gain in total cable TV customers since 2006. There were also big gains in internet and business customers and advertising, lifting cable revenues to over $50bn for the first time. Those results took analysts slightly by surprise given the general buzz in recent months over cord-cutting. If anything, the reverse appeared to be true, at least in Comcast's case. Group revenues for the year rose almost 8% to $80.4bn, helped along by the Olympics. However, even without that $1.6bn advertising bonanza (and any comparisons with the previous year's Super Bowl), revenues would have risen by over 6%. Another key contributor was the theme parks business where annual revenues jumped by close to 50% as a result of the immense popularity of the new Harry Potter attraction and the purchase of full control of Universal Studios Japan. That offset a decline in Universal filmed entertainment after a record-breaking 2015. Net income was up 7.5% to just over $9.0bn.

Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Sep 2016: Comcast announced plans to launch its own wireless telecoms service using its own network of 15m Wifi hotspots underpinned by bandwidth leased from Verizon. It plans to market the service only within its existing cable footprint, targeting current or potential customers with an enhanced bundle of services. The service will launch mid-2017. The company declined to disclose details of pricing, but it could potentially be free or well below the four big national carriers. Analysts (and tech giants Apple, Microsoft and Facebook) were excited by the prospect of a mobile service designed primarily for FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp calling, with traditional wireless connectivity only a secondary consideration.

Adbrands Weekly Update 4th Feb 2016: Media giant Comcast reported strong results for 2015, despite the effect of foreign exchange on its Universal Pictures division. Group revenues rose 8% to $74.5bn, but net income dipped almost 3% to $8.2bn as a result of a higher tax charge. Pretax income was up 7%. The star performer was undoubtedly Universal, where revenues soared by an extraordinary 46% on the back of megahits like Jurassic World. However, it remains a comparatively small part of the overall pie at just $7.3bn. The combined NBCUniversal unit, which also comprises network TV, cable and theme parks, was up 12% to $28.5bn; the core Comcast cable division enjoyed a more modest lift of 6% to $46.9bn.

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