Comcast fought back gamely Thurs, effectively counterpunching AT&T‘s left earnings hook sustained earlier this week with a haymaker of its own. The top MSO’s power again shone through in 1Q, with cable increases in rev (12% to $7bln), operating cash flow (14% to $2.8bln) and net RGU adds (+63% to 1.8mln), the largest RGU growth in the MSO’s history and the 3rd consecutive Q of record-setting additions. "I think we have strength across all fronts… momentum is fantastic," said chmn/CEO Brian Roberts. "The triple play really is changing the company. It’s the gift that keeps on giving." Comcast added 75K basic (+49%), 644K digital (+82%), 563K HSD (+10%) and 571K digital voice (2.4mln total) subs. Digital video penetration sits at 55% (13.2mln total) and should hit 60% by year’s end, said evp/CFO John Alchin. 38% of digital subs take either HD or DVR services, he said. Digital sub accretion will expand further through 2Q before slowing later this year, said COO Steve Burke, as Comcast continues its aggressive push of advanced set tops ahead of the July 1 date requiring separable security in boxes. As for phone, 7% penetration characterizes a footprint that grew 9% in the Q to 35mln households. Burke based a bullish phone outlook on data from Boston, where penetration is 12% and "shows no signs of slowing down." Yet even in light of these stellar video and VoIP metrics, Burke maintained that the HSD segment benefited most from bundled services. "The triple play has been like a booster rocket to our high speed business," he said, noting that the segment had peaked 2-3 years ago before delivering more subs than the previous year in each of the last 5 quarters. Still, the HSD adds, more than half of which came from former DSL subs, were behind the 691K posted by AT&T. The integration of acquired systems is ahead of schedule, at 80% completion, although HSD and phone expansion has fared less well in the acquired markets, said Burke. A 3% decrease in ad rev to $313mln "was the lone weak spot," wrote Sanford Bernstein, which nonetheless said, in a nod to earlier comments from Roberts, that Comcast’s "business is, indeed, on fire."

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