Comcast execs say that there’s a lot of life left in traditional TV advertising, and in the expanded basic pay TV bundle, even in a time of growing cord cutting and shaving.
Only a “very small percentage” of Comcast’s cable TV customers take a smaller package — a so-called skinny bundle — Comcast Cable chief Neil Smit said in a call this morning with analysts. Some 75% of the new video customers in Q4 “were at the higher end of video packages, so you don’t want to overstate the significance of skinny bundles.”
And NBCU chief Steve Burke says he isn’t concerned that his networks — including USA, Bravo, Syfy, and MSNBC — will lose the game of musical chairs as other distributors look to offer subscribers lower priced alternatives with fewer channels.
If you have great programming, then “your channels will stay in the bundle and it will be a good business for a long time.”
That’s one reason he’s pleased by the new deal giving NBC five Thursday Night Football games in 2016 and in 2017.
“Football is profitable for us now and will be profitable for us” with the additional games, Burke says. The matches are “getting more valuable all the time as the world fragments” making the NFL “the most powerful programming on television” that NBC secured “at a very fair rate.”
He acknowledges that networks see overall pay TV subscriptions declining, although the pace will be “lumpy year by year.”
Still, Burke says he’s becoming more confident about demand for TV advertising.
The scatter market is “as strong as it’s been at any time in recent memory,” he says. There’s “nothing to worry about” from auto makers, usually the biggest buyers, giving him “reasons to be optimistic about the trajectory for the upfront” sales market in the spring.
Despite forceful efforts by digital platforms to win ad dollars from TV, “the pendulum is swinging back to traditional television advertising,” the NBCU chief says. With his company’s data about viewing patterns on different devices “we can go to advertisers and say that we have more eyeballs than any other company.”
On other matters, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts says he’ll “take a paddle” in the FCC’s upcoming auction of wireless airwave spectrum. “It’s a very complicated auction. It’s not clear yet what’s for sale. But you have to make a decision now, and we’re making it.”
The company says it will consider the possibility of increasing its stock repurchases if it ends up not buying spectrum.
The CEO downplayed the persistent belief that Comcast is looking for an acquisition following the collapse last year of its effort to buy Time Warner Cable. The plan for this year is to “execute on our business plan and stay focused” — although he dutifully acknowledged that he’s “always looking to grow shareholder value.”