It's really just a matter of time before Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) tries to retake the momentum it's been squandering in the theme park hotbed of Central Florida. The media giant might have disclosed during Thursday's earnings call the name of the next theme park it will open in Florida, and this comes just as its theme park revenue growth is starting to decelerate.
Comcast's theme parks took in $1.361 billion in revenue during the second quarter, a modest 3.6% increase over the prior year but an uptick that's well below its pace of recent years. There are several good reasons for the deceleration at Comcast's Universal Orlando resort, as well as its other owned and operated properties in California and Japan.
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- The timing of the Easter-break holiday inflated results of the first quarter for all of the major theme park operators, presumably at the expense of the second quarter.
- Universal Orlando's springtime debut of Fast & Furious: Supercharged hasn't been drumming up the kind of positive buzz that the company has generated in the past with the Harry Potter-themed expansions at its parks.
- Universal's aggressive move to follow larger rival Disney (NYSE: DIS) into substantial annual price hikes and demand-based pricing could finally be weighing on consumers. It's not a surprise to see Comcast credit an increase in per-capita spending instead of an uptick in attendance for the top-line gain.
Don't bury Comcast just yet, though. It has at least one potentially bar-raising family coaster opening in Florida next year, and then we'll get to what the future may hold for a new gated attraction that may or may not be called Fantastic Worlds.
"We're looking at it," Comcast said during Thursday's earnings call while addressing the development of the more than 575 acres that it now owns just south of its existing resort. He would go on to add that the opening of new parks would turn Universal Orlando into a weeklong vacation destination -- like its Disney World neighbor -- instead of just the two to three days that visitors currently devote to its offerings.
Comcast also would go on to confirm that it has filed a trademark registration for Fantastic Worlds, a name that seems like a no-brainer for one of the potentially many new parks that Universal Orlando can build on its undeveloped land. The name Fantastic Worlds would incorporate the name of two of the likely new areas in the still-unannounced attraction.
A land themed to J.K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts franchise makes sense given the success that Universal Orlando has had with Rowling''s works at the two original parks. Comcast has already confirmed that Super Nintendo World is coming to Orlando in some form.
Universal Orlando can't stand still. Disney is in the second -- and likely quietest -- year of its five-year run to beef up its Florida parks with e-ticket attractions. Disney is no longer phoning it in, but that also means that Comcast is going to have to work harder if it wants to win over Disney-bound families.
We now may have a name from Universal Orlando, but even if we don't we have the company announcing that it's good business to give Florida visitors more to do. The next few years will be very interesting in Central Florida for the theme park operators, fans, and investors.
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