Solid rev growth and heaps of RGU adds are just 2 of the several earnings metrics announced Thurs that further establish Comcast as the exemplary sherpa leading all others to the pay TV peak. Witness: a 69% Y-over-Y swell in ’06 cable RGU adds to 5.03mln, including 1.86mln digital, 1.87mln HSD, and 1.55mln HSD; a 15% increase in operating cash flow to $10.5bln, bringing the MSO’s consecutive Q streak of double-digit cash flow growth to 26; and a 12% bump in annual rev growth to $26.34bln, including 14% 4Q growth. "This is the highest [quarterly] revenue growth on an apples-to-apples basis that I can ever remember for Comcast," said chmn/CEO Brian Roberts. "It may have been our best year ever, and triple play is the driver." And fresh off a 3-for-2 stock split announcement, Comcast is forging ahead with the same bullish attitude. The cable segment expects to add 6.5mln RGUs in ’07, earn a 20% market share by ’12 in both its residential and newly-announced business service offerings, and achieve further increases in digital video and VoIP sub additions. "Our growth and momentum is sustainable," said Roberts, who noted a 5.7% penetration rate for digital voice, 25% for HSD and 52% for digital cable. The MSO added more than 200K VoIP subs in Jan, said COO Steve Burke, and expects to acquire 2.6mln (2.1mln net) this year. Merrill Lynch likes what it sees. "We strongly reiterate our ‘Buy’ rating on Comcast as we have significant confidence in the management team and their ability to prioritize growth initiatives and execute accordingly." Execs said switched digital technical trials are ongoing, part of an 18-month program to increase HD capacity. But Comcast won’t engage in an HD channel capacity race with DirecTV, said Roberts, instead pinning its near-term future primarily on HD VOD content. "We would rather allocate bandwidth to what customers want," he said. 10 of the MSO’s 15 planned migration waves for its new systems are completed. The only real grumbling over Thurs’ announcements came from Sanford Bernstein’s Craig Moffett, who said Comcast’s $5.7bln capex guidance for cable markedly exceeded his forecast.

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DirecTV, DISH Merger Still Possible

AT&T found a way to offload a stake in its US video business, but this likely isn’t the end of the road for DirecTV. A combo with DISH is still possible.

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