SBD/Issue 167/Sports Media

Brian Roberts Discusses Comcast's Pending Acquisition Of NBC

Roberts Not Planning To
"Comcast-ize" NBC

Brian Roberts kicked off the cable industry's annual convention in L.A. yesterday with some of his most extensive comments on Comcast's pending NBC acquisition to date. Given the rebounding advertising market and stabilizing credit markets, Roberts told the crowd of cable operators and programmers, "I feel better about the deal to do NBCU today than I did five months ago." Roberts said ad revenue at Comcast's networks is increasing 20-25% every month thanks to a rebound in the auto and financial categories. He also cited higher TV ratings and revenue from retransmission consent negotiations as reasons why the NBC deal still makes sense. "It seems clear that retrans fees will continue to be paid," he said. Roberts also tried to allay fears that Comcast would bring its corporate culture -- and tighter purse strings -- to NBC. "We're not going to Comcast-ize NBC," he said. "We don't even have a 'Comcast way.'" The cost of sports rights and sports channels did not come up during the discussion. Roberts said that when he puts on his cable operator hat, it looks like the video business "is treading water and there is a limit" to how much cable operators can keep paying programmers. When he puts on his programmer hat, though, he noted that the deals "always get done." Later in the on-stage discussion with former News Corp exec Peter Chernin, Roberts said Comcast will still be "80% a cable company," even after the NBC acquisition goes through (John Ourand, SportsBusiness Journal).

ALL ABOUT THE CONTENT: Roberts yesterday "acknowledged regrets that he didn't jump on the content train sooner." Roberts: "Comcast would be a very different company today if we had done that 20 years ago." But Roberts said that Comcast "won't try to impose its will on NBCU's content experts" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 5/12). Roberts and Comcast COO Steve Burke have emphasized that they "aim to use NBC U content to drive innovations in on demand and broadband content, as part of the company's strategy of extending Comcast's reach well beyond cable wires by providing as much content to consumers on as many different platforms as possible." Meanwhile, Roberts said that Comcast today will unveil an iPad application. He "didn't get specific, but it's understood that the app will work as a remote control and navigation device that allows a user's set-top box to communicate with the Internet" (DAILY VARIETY, 5/12).

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