Universal parks are 'single biggest drag' on Comcast's bottom line, CEO says

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Universal Studios Hollywood globe_C
Universal Hollywood Studios remains closed due to the pandemic. Photo Credit: Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock.com

NBCUniversal's theme park business won't break even again until sometime next year, executives said during parent company Comcast Corp.'s financial earnings call Thursday morning.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh said the majority of NBCUniversal's decline in revenue and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) came from its theme parks. Companywide revenue was down 18.9%, to $6.7 billion, and EBITDA was down 38.7%, to $1.3 billion.

Theme park revenue, specifically, was down 80.9%, falling from $1.6 billion in the third quarter of 2019 to $311 million this past quarter. Theme park EBITDA fell 127.7%, to a loss of $203 million.

Parks in Orlando and Osaka, Japan, are open with reduced capacity, but Universal Studios Hollywood remains closed.

Cavanagh said the business should break even "at some point in 2021, independent of what occurs with Universal Studios Florida."

Theme parks, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said, were the company's "single biggest drag in the quarter." Excluding the segment, NBCUniversal's EBITDA would have grown by 9% year over year, he said.

"While it will take some time for the parks to return to historical levels, we have made substantial progress," Roberts said. "Universal Orlando and Osaka are operating at limited but growing attendance. And while we don't know when Hollywood might reopen, we remain very bullish on the parks long term, and I am very excited for next year's launch of our, frankly, incredible new park in Beijing."

Despite the pandemic, Universal's new park in Beijing is still expected to open next summer.

Cavanagh is projecting $400 million in pre-opening costs related to the park, with $100 million in 2020 and the remaining $300 million in the first half of 2021.

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