The NBC network and TV stations witnessed strong advertising growth in the first quarter of 2012 -- with or without the Super Bowl. But higher programming and other costs left NBC in an out-of-profit position for the period.
NBC's broadcast revenue, reported by Comcast Corp., its majority owner, grew 37% in the period to $1.85 billion as a result of Super Bowl advertising sales, higher prime-time network ratings and higher revenue from a content licensing agreement.
A big chunk -- $259 million -- of its overall take came from the Super Bowl advertising that was recorded in the period. Even without the Super Bowl, NBC's broadcast revenue was up 18%.
Revenue activity moved at a slower pace at NBCUniversal’s cable networks, up 5.8% to $2.14 billion. Overall, NBCUniversal revenue gained 18% to $5.5 billion.
Operating cash flow did not score as well for its TV network and stations -- although it narrowed its losses. There was operating cash flow loss of $10 million compared to operating cash flow of $20 million in the first quarter of 2011. NBC says that higher programming and marketing costs supported the midseason prime-time schedule.
Cable networks grew almost 6% in advertising revenue during the period, with revenue from affiliate fees climbing nearly 4%. As with its broadcast group, cable managed to narrow its operating cash flow 1.4% to $805 million. Cable took in higher programming and production costs, primarily due to a shift in the number of NBA games to the first quarter of 2012.
NBCUniversal’s Universal Studios film segment also had a good period -- up 22.3% in revenue to $1.2 billion, this coming from release of “Dr. Seuss's The Lorax” and “Safe House." It also gained home entertainment revenue from “Hop” and “Tower Heist." Operating cash flow edged into the positive territory -- $6 million compared to an operating cash flow loss of $146 million in the first quarter of 2011.
Theme parks increased revenue 5.7% to $412 million, compared to $390 million in the first quarter of 2011, driven by higher spending at the Orlando and Hollywood parks.
Overall, Comcast revenue grew 22.7% to $14.9 billion with net income sinking to $1.04 billion from $1.5 billion. But operating cash flow gained 15% company-wide to $4.7 billion.
Comcast noted that its first-quarter numbers included two months of NBC results. Comcast closed its deal to acquire a majority stake in NBC from General Electric at the end of January 2011.