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Comcast Vague on HD, Broadband Tops $1B

Comcast Cable is reporting revenue of $5.3 billion for the third quarter of 2005, representing an increase of 9.8 percent compared to the 3Q of 2004. In the 3Q, Comcast reported in its financial statement that it deployed 326,000 advanced set-top boxes "with DVR and/or HDTV" programming capability, ending the quarter with a total of 2.3 million advanced set-top boxes in service.

By the end of the 3Q, the cable firm reported about 22 percent of its digital customers "had one or more advanced set-top boxes." 3Q growth in overall digital-tier subs increased 12.4 percent (307,000). Currently with more than 9.4 million digital subscribers, Comcast said, its digital penetration has reached slightly more than 44 percent of basic subscribers. (Basic subs are essentially unchanged at 21.4 million, down 0.4 percent from one year ago).

But as usual, exactly how many of Comcast's deployed boxes are dedicated primarily for HD content and how many are DVR (or both) apparently will remain a secret for now. Virtually no cable firms release their specific HD sub numbers, usually describing it as "proprietary data."

But it's a safe bet that the vast majority of Comcast's so-called advanced boxes fall into the DVR category. It's also a safe bet that as soon as HD-generated revenue starts to perk up (if it can ever be determined specifically, since HD channels can be thrown into the digital-tier mix with other services and not priced separately), no longer might the numbers be held so tightly to the corporate vest.

In a statement, Comcast did offer that its 3Q growth "reflects strong consumer demand for new digital features including Comcast on Demand [VOD], HDTV programming, and digital video recorders."

Meanwhile, Comcast broadband for Internet services had a revenue jump of more than 26 percent, to $1 billion in 3Q, reflecting a 24.2 percent increase in online subs--now totaling 8.1 million with a 3Q add-on of 437,000. Comcast said its broadband service now penetrates about 20 percent of all eligible households nationwide.