Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Comcast To Fully Own Universal Parks

Yesterday Comcast announced that they are purchasing the rest of NBCUniversal from General Electric for $16.7 billion.  For us theme park fans, that means that Comcast will now fully own the chain of Universal Theme Parks - a sale like this has the potential to be unsettling for the parks, however, this seem like good news.  Really good news, actually.

Recent earnings releases for 2012 point out that the Universal parks had an amazing year, with attendance and in-park spending up once again.  Operating cash flow rose almost ten percent to $953 million, and overall revenue from the parks was up just shy of five percent to $2.1 billion. 

That $2.1 billion comes from the chain's two North American resorts, for comparison both Cedar Fair and Six Flags have yearly revenues right around $1 billion with 19 and 17 properties, respectively.  That's a lot of butterbeer!

Comcast has not been shy about spending big bucks to invest in new rides and attractions at the theme parks, much to our delights.  That hasn't changed this past year, when the Transformers project for Universal Orlando was quickly approved and built, and Universal Hollywood is currently working on a Despicable Me attraction.  Harry Potter related expansions are looming on both coasts, pointing toward an even brighter future for the parks.

These things aren't cheap, but Comcast doesn't seem to mind.  Capital spending increased by 80 percent last year, and is expected to increase 25 percent on top of that this year.  Even more rides and attractions are in the pipeline for the properties, and the owners are confident that even more success can be found at the parks.

Many have felt the presence of Universal Orlando grow in the past years - granted Potter really kicked that into high gear - and even with a large Fantasyland expansion the shine of Disney World seems a tad less bright these days.  Competition is a wonderful thing for fans, though, as we get to reap the rewards of the battle.