Comcast's Q1 results mostly positive; X1 launch expected soon

Tom Paine

Comcast today reported results for Q1 2012 that easily beat Wall Street's consensus expectations. Viewing results compared to 2011 as if NBCU and 100% of Universal Orlando were fully included in last year's result, revenue increased 9.6% to $14.9 billion and operating cash flow also increased 9.6% to $4.7 billion. Earnings per share increased 32% over last year's first quarter.

NBCU, High Speed Internet and Business Services were the best performing segments. NBCU revenue grew 18% for the quarter; even if you exclude the big bump from the Super Bowl, revenue still grew by 12.4%. It is important to note, however, that operating cash flow from Broadcast Television and Filmed Entertainment combined was still negative, so its hardly time to proclaim a completed turnaround there. (See Steve Burke's reported recent comments on the current economics of the film industry.) High Speed Internet added 439,000 new customers with revenue growth of 10.3 %. Business Services revenue grew 37% as that unit moved upmarket towards serving more mid-market customers and added new services.

One negative was the net loss of 37,000 video subscribers. Some analysts thought this number might be lower, as Comcast appeared close to having stopped the trend of losing subscribers. Prices hikes implemented across 62% of Comcast's footprint during the quarter may have slightly increased customer churn, though. Overall video revenue grew only 1.6%.

Some key points that came up during the conference call:

  • Roberts said Streampix (Comcast's prototypical Netflix-like service) now has about 2 million users.

  • Home security and "Smart Home" service Xfinity Home is now available across 72% of Comcast's footprint, the company said. It would reveal nothing about the number of subscribers signed up yet, saying Comcast found it had needed to train salespeople to take "a more consultative approach" to selling the product.

  • Comcast's new "X1" cloud-based interface, which had been piloted in Augusta GA, will roll out "in a major market" in the second quarter (maybe it will be Philly, since Comcast often launches there), with further expansion later in the year. Comcast clearly sees X1 as revolutionary in how subcribers will navigate their systems to locate content, and how its cloud architecture will make system enhancements much easier to deploy to subscribers. Update: Light Reading says it will be launched in Boston in May, around the time of the Cable Show, which is being held there this year.

  • Comcast does not forsee implementing usage-based broadband pricing.

  • A question about whether the Verizon Wireless joint marketing venture would go forward if for some reason the spectrum sale (by SpectrumCo to Verizon) did not receive Federal approval was sidestepped with a reaffirmation by Roberts that the company remained optimistic the sale would be approved later this year.

  • Programming expenses grew 5.5% in Q1, and Comcast expects the rate of growth for the full year to higher than that (I would guess Olympic rights might be part of that depending upon how those expenses are recognized).

  • Comcast's Xfinity TV app has been downloaded 5 million times, although more people are using it now for its tools (interface, remote, guide) than to view content.

  • Comcast says it expects to demonstrate some exciting synergies between NBCU and Comcast Cable during the upcoming Olympics.

Comcast shares closed the day down less than 1%.


Confirming rumors, Exton-based iPipeline acquires UK-based Assureweb

Tom Paine

A few weeks ago I reported on rumors in the UK press that iPipeline was in talks to acquire Assureweb, a UK-based SaaS platform for life, mortgage and pension insurance quotations and applications.

Today, the deal was announced. Exton-based iPipeline says in a statement that Assureweb "will lead the expansion of iPipeline’s online insurance solutions to the UK, Europe and Asia". Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Assureweb, which is located in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, has nearly 85 employees, the company says. Andrew Simon will continue to serve as Assureweb CEO. Assureweb has been owned by a consortium of UK insurers, including Aviva, AEGON, Friends Life, Prudential, and Scottish Widows Plc.

The deal apparently utilizes a chunk of the $71.4 million iPipeline raised from Technology Crossover Ventures in January. In addition to achieving geographical expansion, iPipeline says the combination of its own products with Assureweb's will be synergistic.

I'll be looking for more details on the deal in the UK press.


Daily Links 5/2/2012: SAP, Oracle database war gets heated; Oracle states claims for TomorrowNow retrial

SAP and Oracle up the ante in the phony database wars (Dennis Howlett/ZDNet Blogs)

Amazon Wins SAP as Cloud Partner for Smartphone Software Afaria (Bloomberg)

Oracle Claims $777 Million Damages in SAP Infringement Case (Bloomberg)

Comcast Must Put Bloomberg TV Near Other News Channels, FCC Says (Bloomberg)

Kenexa Announces Financial Results for First Quarter 2012 (Business Wire)
Increases guidance for year.

After 2 Years Of Pivots, ShowMe Finally Has A Sticky Product -- 500,000 Lessons Are Being Added Every Month (Silicon Alley Insider)
ShowMe, now based in New York, originally launched as Easel Learning at DreamIt Ventures Philadelphia in 2010.

PlaySay gamifies language learning with speech recognition app (VentureBeat)
PlaySay, which started out in Philly and moved to DC, has apparently moved again, this time to San Francisco.

Devon IT Releases Package Management for Thin Client Solutions (Business Wire)


Comcast Q1: Strong NBCU results

Comcast Reports 1st Quarter 2012 Results (Business Wire)
Revenue and operating cash flow increase 9.6%, pro forma (apples to apples including all NBCU results for prior year). Strong NBCU
results; video subscriber losses at 37,000, Business Services revenue grows 37%.