Peter Kafka

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Comcast Says Its Long-Lost Ads Have Returned

The ad comeback that most (but not all) Web publishers are seeing is showing up other places, too. Comcast says it saw advertising revenue jump 24 percent in the last quarter, marking the first time that that number had increased since the first quarter of 2008.

The caveats: As with all of these reports, current numbers are being compared to really lousy ones in the past year, so the bump isn’t as impressive as it might seem. More important is that advertising is a secondary business for Comcast (CMCSA). Like every cable provider, it makes the bulk of its money renting its services out to customers.

Still, it’s a positive sign for the economy as a whole. It has been a “little scary” to see the ad dollars disappear over the past couple years, COO Steve Burke said on the earnings call today (have to believe that Comcast officials never used that language in earlier calls, when it actually was scary), but “the majority of it is coming back.”

Comcast is also heartened by the ad comeback because it’s going to be much more directly involved in the ad business, assuming it gets its purchase of NBC Universal from GE (GE) approved.

Speaking of which. Comcast says it spent a staggering $29 million on the transaction in the last quarter. That breaks down to $14 million in operating expenses, $2 million in interest and $13 million in “other”.

The good news: Comcast says the total nets out to $17 million after you account for taxes. A mere drop in the bucket! The bad news: The deal won’t likely go through for a couple more quarters, which means millions more out the door. Or maybe that’s good news, if you’re in the business of helping Comcast get this thing approved by Washington.