Comcast CEO: Cable results nothing short of exceptional as broadband reaches new heights

Comcast shatters several broadband subscriber records for the full year and fourth quarter of 2020. (Comcast)

While the pandemic helped propel Comcast's record year for broadband in 2020, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said during Thursday morning's earnings call that his company's years of investments was on full display.

Comcast shattered several broadband records for the full year and fourth quarter of 2020 including the addition of 538,000 broadband subscribers in the fourth quarter and 2 million net broadband adds for the year, both of which were records.

"High speed internet drove our highest ever full year net customer relationship additions of 1.6 million, bringing us to 33 million total customer relationships," Roberts said on the earnings call. "Yet with just only 50% penetration of our footprint, there remains plenty of opportunity for future growth."

For the fourth quarter, Comcast had customer relationship net adds of 455,000 which was a record for the fourth quarter. The 1.6 million customer net adds for the year also set a new record.

"This year's cable results with nothing short of exceptional hitting a number of company records," Roberts said. "By proactively managing our network, increasing broadband speeds, expanding our Internet Essentials program for low income households, providing payment plans for customers struggling the most, and offering Peacock and Flex for free, this pandemic has forced us to rethink the way we operate and service our customers."

Once the pandemic started to take-off last year, Comcast sent its customer care reps home to work. Roberts said that work-from-home has gone so well for those reps that Comcast is "leaning towards embracing this model permanently."

Roberts said Comcast also expanded its self-installation eligibility. Currently, over two thirds of Comcast's customers are connecting to its services by self-install kits. 

Comcast also saw increased adoption of its digital customer service tools during the pandemic including the use of its Xfinity Assistant. Xfinity Assistant is Comcast's cross-channel, virtual customer service tool. Xfinity Assistant answers customers' questions around the clock without them needing to stop what they're doing to call customer service reps.

RELATED: How Comcast changed the customer care landscape with its digital tools during Covid-19

While Comcast's digital service tools made installs safer for customers and technicians, they also reduced agent handled calls by over 16 million and truck rolls by 1.6 million, all while adding new customer relationships, according to Roberts.

"Broadband is the cornerstone of what we do," Roberts said. "Powered by our robust, flexible and reliable network, and the many years of investments we've made have been on full display. We've continued to enhance our market leading competitive position, while keeping people connected, protected, informed and entertained."

While 2020 was a banner year for Comcast's broadband results, executives on the earnings call noted that it was somewhat of anomaly due to the pandemic. Comcast had been building broadband momentum in prior years, and for that reason 2019 is a better measuring stick going forward into 2021, according to Comcast execs.

David Watson, president and CEO of Comcast Cable, said during the Q&A that Comcast's increase in broadband subscribers last year were the result of taking market share from telco's DSL, wired and wireless services as well as an expanded market.

While Comcast's addition of 538,000 broadband subscribers in Q4 was notable, it will be interesting to see how many new broadband subscribers Charter Communications has when it reports its earnings on Friday. In Q3, Charter added 537,000 broadband subscribers.

Comcast by the numbers

Comcast posted fourth-quarter net profit of $3.38 billion, or 73 cents a share, beating FactSet analyst estimates. Revenue was down 2.4% to $27.71 billion. Overall, Comcast's cable communications division accounted for $15.7 billion in revenue, up 6.3%.

Comcast's shares were up by about 4% in early morning trading following its earnings report.