Comcast beefing up theme park business

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Comcast-logoComcast is investing hundreds of millions into theme parks in California and Florida, in an effort to challenge Disney in the tourism business. The Theme Parks and Resorts Unit began when it acquired Universal Orlando Resorts as part of its deal for NBCUniversal in 2011, just as Universal was reaping huge attendance gains from the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.


Profits soared like Harry Potter on his broomstick and Comcast committed to the Transformers 3D and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attractions, noted a Philadelphia Inquirer story.

This summer, Comcast will open a new Harry Potter ride and Potter-themed area at its second theme park, Universal Studios Florida, which will share space with the original on the same 750-acre Universal complex.

To keep ticket-buying visitors for extra days, Comcast is financing what it calls the largest hotel construction project in North America: the 1,800-room, 1960s-themed Cabana Bay Beach Resort. “think of the biggest Wildwood hotel you know and imagine it stretching over multiple football fields,” noted the story.

Cabana Bay guests now can sleep, eat, and swim on the same complex as the theme parks. Comcast’s 50-50 partner is Loews Corp.

Cabana Bay’s first 600 rooms will open this month, and construction workers recently were testing the fire alarm in the hotel lobby, which has 18 check-in stations to handle the guest volume.

Once fully opened later this year, Cabana Bay will boost Universal’s hotel room count in Orlando by 75%, to 4,200 rooms from 2,400 – with a potential goal, according to NBCUniversal head Steve Burke, of 10,000 to 15,000 hotel rooms over time.

Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts says he’s “doubling down on theme parks.” At an investor conference in January, he said, “We think there is a lot there in the theme park business for many years to come, and that we have the low market share and only one way to go.”

Comcast’s theme parks and resorts unit, part of NBCUniversal, reported revenue of $2.2 billion and operating cash flow – a measure of the division’s profitability – of $1 billion in 2013.

Between the second Potter attraction and Cabana Bay, the Universal theme park complex is adding 3,500 jobs this year, bringing its Orlando-area employment to about 17,000.

See the Philadelphia Inquirer story here.

RBR-TVBR observation: Imagine how many Comcast Spotlight “house ads” for these added theme park attractions and hotels you’ll be seeing across the country via local spot cable soon.It makes perfect sense, though, considering all of the children’s and family programming it can place ads on.


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.