2012 Letter to Shareholders
Dear Fellow Shareholders,
Comcast had a very successful year in 2012, with strong financial results that highlight our focus on innovation and operational excellence. Building on this momentum, and having just completed the acquisition of General Electric’s remaining 49% common equity interest in NBCUniversal, we are right where we want to be—at the intersection of media and technology.
From this unique position, we can lead in creating and delivering a growing array of entertainment and communications choices for consumers. We can innovate faster, developing and bringing to life products that excite and delight our customers. We can also leverage our strengths to build new businesses that will drive growth far into the future.
In 2012, we had solid gains in consolidated revenue and operating cash flow, which increased to $62.6 billion and $20 billion, respectively. We generated $7.9 billion in free cash flow, a 13% increase, demonstrating the strength of our cable and NBCUniversal businesses. We returned $4.6 billion of capital to shareholders, announced a 20% increase in our dividend and a plan to repurchase $2 billion of our stock this year. Our balance sheet remains strong, and our public debt ratings were recently upgraded to A– by two major credit rating agencies. Our performance and opportunities have also been recognized by the market: In 2012, the value of Comcast stock rose nearly 60%, outperforming the S&P 500 by more than four times.
Our cable business had a robust year, with revenue increases in all of our residential products, in business services and in advertising. High-speed Internet and business services continued to drive this growth. At the same time, we extended our two-year trend of improving video subscriber results while consistently increasing video revenue. We also exceeded 10 million voice customers early in 2013.
The XFINITY® brand has taken hold, driving increasing loyalty among our customers, higher consideration from potential customers and improving our position against competitors. We're also making steady headway in customer service, as our products become even more reliable and we make it easier for customers to do business with us, with one– and two–hour appointment windows, more self–installation and self–service options and broader online service capabilities.
Investments in both our technical platform and products over the last few years have yielded strong returns, enhanced our competitive position and contributed to our strong financial performance. This year, we will accelerate investments to drive growth and differentiation even further and to expand new businesses. We are increasing the speed of our Internet services—for the seventh time in the last 10 years. We are also expanding deployment of new wireless gateways to deliver the fastest in–home Wi–Fi and to power the growing number of connected devices in our customers’ homes.
By extending our fiber network to business–rich areas, we expect to gain share in the small business market and expand our reach to additional mid–sized businesses. We also see exciting potential in XFINITY Home, our new home security and home management service, and we’re focused on growing its new customer base.
Our goal is to have the most robust and differentiated products in the market, and we’re working to enable “anytime, anywhere” experiences, with services delivered over the most capable network, across multiple devices, both in and outside the home. Our first X1 product, a new cloud–based guide, makes it easier for our customers to discover and enjoy our growing number of content offerings. In 2012, we deployed X1 in six markets. This year, we will expand availability to the majority of our footprint, add new applications and offer increasingly personalized options to our customers. Our X1 cloud–based platform will enable us to continue to innovate and deliver new products faster than ever before.
NBCUniversal also had standout performance in 2012. Our cable networks business, with 15 cable channels and 12 regional sports and news networks, continued to drive NBCUniversal’s profitability, with great brands and real strength in entertainment, sports and news. USA Network remained the highest-rated cable entertainment network for the seventh year in a row; Bravo had its seventh consecutive record ratings year; and Golf Channel, mun2 and MSNBC were three of the five fastest-growing channels on television last year. We have been investing in programming to strengthen our cable channel brands and to capture a greater share of advertising and affiliate revenues. And we’re making progress—our cable channels are beginning to receive higher affiliate fees as we negotiate new carriage agreements with distributors.
Strength in sports, particularly the London Olympics and NFL programming, together with the primetime success of NBC last fall, drove improving results for our broadcast businesses.
NBC News delivered outstanding coverage of the presidential election, and during Hurricane Sandy our news group provided vital storm information and was the most–watched news organization in the country. There is more work to do—it’s still early in the turnaround of NBC—but we see a significant opportunity to improve the performance of the network and to also benefit from retransmission consent fees for NBC and Telemundo.
In 2012, our film business benefited from strong box office performances of Ted, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and Les Misérables; and our theme parks posted outstanding results, driven by game–changing attractions such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ in Orlando and Transformers™: The Ride–3D in Hollywood. We see great potential for our theme parks business in the years ahead, and we’re investing in new attractions to continue to transform our parks into must–visit destinations.
The London Olympics showcased our success in bringing together our content and distribution businesses to support an important initiative for the whole company.
For the first time, we employed a strategy that encompassed broadcast, cable and digital. More than 219 million Americans watched the London Olympics across our networks, making it the most–watched event in U.S. television history. This was the first Olympics where social media played a major role—and our digital platforms saw unprecedented traffic and engagement. We also succeeded in making the Olympics a good model for TV Everywhere, our effort to make the most content available whenever and wherever consumers want to watch it. Our XFINITY cable customers had access to Olympics content not only on linear TV, but also through our On Demand and online platforms, and through XFINITY TV and sports apps, both in and outside the home. XFINITY customers were particularly enthusiastic about this experience, generating 50 million views through On Demand and live streaming. Our experience with the Olympics, and other examples like The Voice and The Lorax, prove the power of our promotion and multi-platform reach to take an event—whether sports or news, a television show or a film—and deliver it widely. The Olympics were also a financial win, and we are pleased to have a long–term commitment to this signature event.
Ever since NBCUniversal became part of our company two years ago, we have been hard at work getting to know these businesses and have found the opportunities for growth and value creation even stronger than we first anticipated. Our strong belief that having scale in content and distribution and that operating these businesses together creates value for our company is increasingly evident. Now that we own 100% of NBCUniversal’s common equity, we have a simplified financial structure and a plan to further strengthen our balance sheet over time, while we continue to invest in our businesses and consistently return capital to shareholders.
As we begin 2013 and mark the 50th anniversary of Comcast, I could not be more excited about our future. We are in a strong strategic position to capitalize on growth opportunities and changing trends in both technology and media. We are energized and focused, and we have the capacity to continue to transform our businesses to enrich our customers’ experiences.
As remarkable as our growth and transformation has been, I’m most proud that we’ve maintained the qualities of entrepreneurialism, financial discipline and integrity that my father established and that have been at the core of Comcast’s success from the very beginning. I am grateful to our 129,000 employees around the globe for sharing these values, and for their drive, creativity and dedication every day.
I am honored to be part of Comcast’s success and thank you for your continued support.
BRIAN L. ROBERTS
Chairman and CEO
March 29, 2013