While the economy struggles to claw its way out of recession, the advertising marketplace appears to have emerged from the sinkhole. For the first time in two years, Comcast reported gains in ad sales revenue, prompting chairman and CEO Brian Roberts to declare that the ad market “has really turned around.”
Speaking to investors at the cable giant’s first quarter earnings call, Roberts expressed confidence in the state of the business, affirming that Comcast is firing on all cylinders.
“It’s not clear that we’re entirely out of the woods on the economy, but we are cautiously optimistic and are clearly executing better in this environment and against the competition,” Roberts said Wednesday morning.
Spurred by double-digit increases in automotive, retail and restaurant spend, Comcast’s local advertising revenue in Q1 was up 24 percent to $360 million, marking its first improvement on that front since the first quarter of 2008. A year ago, Comcast saw ad sales plummet 25 percent versus the first quarter of 2008.
All told, Comcast’s local ad sales dollars accounted for 4 percent of its overall cable revenue ($8.68 billion).
On the programming side, ad sales revenue from Comcast’s suite of networks––including E!, Style, Versus, G4 and Golf Channel––added up to $152 million, a gain of 6 percent from the year-ago $143 million. Including affiliate fees, total revenue came in at $385 million, up 7 percent from Q1 ‘09.
Operating cash flow from the programming segment was $121 million, up 9 percent year-over-year.
Roberts did not go into great detail on the pending deal to acquire a 51 percent stake in a joint programming venture between it and NBC Universal, saying only that the both parties were at the midpoint of a regulatory review process that he hopes will close by the end of the year.
Per its April 28 8-K filing with the Securities Exchange Commission, Comcast in Q1 incurred $14 million in costs related to the NBCU transaction.