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Volume 20 No. 42
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Sochi’s $1.1 billion boosts Comcast’s Q1 results

NBCUniversal beat analysts’ estimates for the Sochi Games, booking $1.1 billion in revenue, which is nearly $300 million more than Wall Street analysts expected.

Revenue from the Olympics helped boost Comcast’s first-quarter profit by 30 percent. The $1.1 billion in revenue for the Olympics pushed total revenue for NBCUniversal’s media unit to $6.9 billion, a 28.8 percent increase from the same period a year ago.

The success of the 2014 Winter Games stands in stark contrast to its most recent predecessor, the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. GE, which owned NBCUniversal at the time, claimed it lost $223 million on the Vancouver Games.

“It’s appearing that under Comcast’s ownership, NBC Olympics’ success is now profitable, which wasn’t the case under previous ownership,” said Vijay Jayant, a senior media analyst with International Strategy & Investment. “With the positioning of the shows and marketing of them and offering them on not only broadcast but cable, [Comcast] had success.”

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, who led the company’s negotiations for Olympic TV rights in 2011, called the results “terrific.”

“Any way you look at the Olympics, it was a tremendous success,” Roberts said during an earnings call with analysts last week.

NBC paid $775 million for the rights to the Sochi Games but didn’t report production and travel expenses against the event. The Sochi Games averaged 21.4 million viewers over 18 days in prime time on NBC, a 6 percent increase from the 2006 Torino Games, which were the last Winter Olympics held outside North America. This year’s event drew 61.8 million visitors across all of NBC’s platforms, a 29 percent increase from Vancouver, and helped NBC Sports Network to its most-watched quarter ever, Comcast reported.

Jayant pointed out that NBC’s broadcast competitors, ABC, CBS and Fox, don’t schedule high-quality programming during the Olympics. This made competition for viewers easier for NBC’s Olympic programming than at other times of the year.

“It was a success — in terms of the viewership, the streaming and the ad dollars that followed through,” Jayant said.