Comcast Corp.'s turnaround of AT&T Broadband's ailing cable systems is going
much better than expected, and the company posted strong first-quarter numbers.
The big surprise was that Comcast reversed subscriber losses at
AT&T Broadband's systems, adding 43,000 units during the three months ended March.
Comcast executives hadn't expected to go positive until the third quarter.
Cable-modem sales totaled 417,000, about 75,000 more than expected,
bringing the company's total base to 4 million and penetration to 19 percent.
The company now expects to add 1.6 million high-speed Internet subscribers
for the year, up from the 1.3 million to 1.4 million it had earlier projected.
"I've never been this far ahead of a plan in my life," Comcast Cable
Communications Inc. president Steve Burke said in an interview.
Cable-system revenue rose a moderate 10 percent to $4.2 billion, but cash
flow surged 35 percent to $1.4 billion.
That's a "pro forma" comparison, assuming that the AT&T Broadband systems had been
acquired in January 2002.
Comcast doesn't have some restructuring costs that AT&T Broadband
did last year, but it is simply running the systems better.
One big change: no more loss-leader deals to push telephone sales.
Burke said telephone-subscriber growth is slower, but the new subscribers are