About NBC Universal, Inc.
Comcast is one of the biggest pay-TV providers in the US with some 30 million subscribers to its cable systems. Its broadband internet service has about 25 million subscribers, video has about 21 million subscribers, and its voice service has about 10.2 million customers. On the content side, the company owns NBCUniversal, including the NBC TV network and movie studios Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Animation. Cable channels CNBC, MSNBC, and the USA Network are also under the Comcast tent. Other Comcast properties include the Universal Studios theme parks and Telemundo, a leading Spanish-language TV network. In 2018, Comcast bought Sky, a UK-based telecommunications and media provider.
Comcast operates three primary businesses: Comcast Cable (Cable Communication), NBCUniversal (Cable Networks, Broadcast Television, Filmed Entertainment and Theme Parks), and Sky.
The cable business, accounting for nearly 60% of revenue, offers internet, video, voice, and security and automation services in the US under the Xfinity brand.
NBCUniversal operates four business segments: Cable Networks, more than 10% of revenue, which provides entertainment, news and information, and sports content as well as regional sports and news networks; Broadcast Television, 10% of revenue, consists primarily of the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks; Filmed Entertainment, about 5% of revenue, owns Universal Pictures, which makes and distributes movies; and NBCUniversal's Theme Parks, also 5% of revenue, consists primarily of Universal theme parks in Orlando, Florida; Hollywood, California; and Osaka, Japan.
Comcast also provides wireless telephone service through its Xfinity Mobile brand. Through its majority-owned subsidiary Comcast Spectacor, the company owns the Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL, as well as the team's arena, the Wells Fargo Center.
Comcast, based in Philadelphia, has operations of one kind or another in all 50 states. Its cable communications operations are along the East Coast, in the South, the Midwest, the West Coast, and Pacific Northwest. The company owns and operates about 10 NBC-affiliate TV stations in the some of the top markets in the country. In Europe, Sky operates four of the five largest pay television markets in Western Europe: UK, Italy, Germany and Spain.
Even with the international expansion through the Sky acquisition, Comcast's revenue is concentrated in the US, which supplies 85% of sales.
Sales and Marketing
Comcast offers its services directly to residential and business customers through call centers, door-to-door selling, direct mail advertising, television advertising, internet advertising, local media advertising, telemarketing, and retail outlets. The company spends about $6 billion a year on advertising, marketing, and promotion.
Comcast's revenue had grown at a steady 7% average rate over the past five years as the company had added to its stable of telecom and content through acquisitions.
In 2018, revenue rose 11% to $94.5 billion, up about $9 billion from 2017. Growth came from the Cable Communications segment, which had higher sales from residential high-speed internet, business services, and advertising. Big broadcast events – the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and 2018 Super Bowl – boosted revenue in the Cable Networks and Broadcast Television segments. Sky contributed $4.6 billion of revenue from Oct. 9, 2018 through the end of the year.
Net income fell to $11.7 billion in 2018, about half of 2017's net income ($22.7 billion). The difference was that the company made a tax payment in 2018 while it received a tax benefit in 2017 due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Income before taxes was about 1% lower in 2018 due to costs associated with programming and production expenses for the Olympics and the Super Bowl.
Comcast held $3.8 billion in cash and equivalents in 2018 compared to $3.4 billion in 2017. Operations generated $24.3 billion in 2018, while investing activities used $50.8 billion and financing activities provided $27.1 billion.
Comcast jumped into the European market with its $39 billion acquisition of Sky in 2018. UK-based Sky, the biggest group in Europe, offers telecommunications services and media content. The number of Sky customers rose 735,000 2018, bringing its total customer relationships to nearly 24 million.
While Comcast added about 1 million cable customers in 2018, the company plans to offer a streaming service for cord-cutters. The company plans to launch the service in 2020 with content from its entertainment library. Comcast faces stiff competition in streaming, not only with providers such as Netflix and Amazon.com, but coming offerings from Disney and Apple.
Comcast has taken steps to improve customer service while reducing costs through digitization. More than 75% of transactions in 2018 were completed through digital capabilities, which helped reduce more expensive agent-handled calls by 15 million and truck dispatches by 1.5 million.
The number of subscribers to Comcast's wireless phone service, Xfinity Mobile, reached 1.2 million in 2018, up from 580,000 the year before. Comcast leases space on Verizon's network, which might hinder its ability to compete.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In 2019 Comcast acquired Deep Blue Communications, which engineers, installs, and manages commercial WiFi networks. Comcast intends to combine its networks with Deep Blue's intelligent, managed WiFi and create greater efficiency for businesses. Terms were not disclosed.
In 2019 Comcast bought BluVector, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide cybersecurity protection to companies and government agencies. Verizon and BluVector planned to build on BluVector's existing business and to develop new cybersecurity technologies. Terms were not disclosed.
In 2018 Comcast's $39 billion bid won a battle to buy Sky, a UK-based broadcaster that's the biggest cable group in Europe. The offer was higher than that of Twenty-First Century Fox, whose bid was backed by the Walt Disney Co. (which bought Twenty-First Century Fox in 2019). The deal expands Comcast's reach in Europe and adds a significant number of customers. Sky's role as a telecommunications provider and a media provider parallels Comcast's role in the US.
In 1963 Ralph Roberts, Daniel Aaron, and Julian Brodsky bought American Cable Systems in Tupelo, Mississippi. The company soon expanded throughout the state. In 1969 the company got a new name: Comcast, combining "communications" and "broadcast." Two years later Comcast acquired franchises in western Pennsylvania, and when it went public in 1972, it moved to Philadelphia.
Comcast bought up local operations nationwide through the early 1980s and gained its first foreign cable franchise in 1983 in London (it sold its affiliate there to NTL -- now Virgin Media-- in 1998). It took a 26% stake in the large Group W Cable in 1986. Roberts also lent financial support that year to a fledgling home-shopping channel called QVC-- for "quality, value, and convenience."
A big step into telecommunications came in 1988 when Comcast bought American Cellular Network, with Delaware and New Jersey franchises. Two years later Roberts' son Brian -- who had trained as a cable installer during a summer away from college -- became Comcast's president.
In 1992 Comcast bought Metromedia's Philadelphia-area cellular operations and began investing in fiber-optic and wireless phone companies. By then the company was a major QVC shareholder. With an eye toward Comcast's programming needs, Brian persuaded FOX network head Barry Diller to become QVC's chairman. But when Diller tried to use QVC to take over CBS, Comcast bought control of QVC in 1994 to quash the bid, which went against cross-ownership bans. To pay for QVC, Comcast had to sell its 20% stake in cable firm Heritage Communications in 1995. Diller left the company to oversee for a time InterActiveCorp, parent of QVC's archrival HSN). Also in 1995 Comcast funded former Disney executive Richard Frank to launch the C3 (Comcast Content and Communication) programming company.
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