It’s hard to imagine what the video business will look like in one year, let alone 10. Yet Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis says that was an incentive for his company to pursue the decade-long deal with Disney, announced yesterday, that gives the cable company broad rights to about 70 channels and services. “I look at that anxiety (about video’s future) as an opportunity,” he told bankers and analysts at the Citigroup Global Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications Conference. “Having long-term deals provides consistency.” He calls the agreement “a building block” — along with investments in live sports and VOD — for Comcast’s plan to compete with tech companies including Google and Apple as they move into the video business. “Our goal is to provide our customers with the best experience so they have no desire to go anywhere else.” Although Comcast and Disney didn’t disclose financial terms for their deal, the CFO acknowledges that it will increase Comcast’s programming costs. That’s “a challenge and we’re working through that.”
Angelakis was predictably upbeat about NBCUniversal. He offered a glass-half-full vision for the struggling NBC network, calling it “the biggest opportunity we have” — although he acknowledges that “it’s going to take awhile” to see big improvements. He also calls Telemundo “a diamond in the rough.” Comcast also sees Universal Studios as a growth opportunity although the CFO says that with the industry-wide decline in DVD sales he’s “not sure it can get back to where it was a few years ago.” Meanwhile, the theme parks are “knocking the cover off the ball” with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction in Orlando, which the company recently announced will also come to Universal Studios Hollywood. Angelakis also sees growth opportunities for NBCU’s cable channels, which he calls the “jewel in the crown.” Although they’re doing well, he says that rivals often command higher ad rates and payments from pay TV providers. “Our goal is to close the gap.” Generally speaking, he says that Comcast intends to keep the cash generated by NBCU within the operation so it can buy back much of the 49% stake in the venture that’s still held by General Electric. But most of the cash from Comcast’s cable systems will go back to shareholders in dividends or share repurchases. At the company’s earnings call next month “we’ll talk about the buyback again.”
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