Speaking at Goldman Sachs’ Communicopia Conference in New York this morning, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said certain “pivot points” over the last several years had allowed the No. 1 cable company and NBCUniversal parent to get where it is today “at the intersection of technology and media.”
He marveled of the recent Rio Olympics on NBC, “We’re really proud as a company to have broadcast that.” Technologically, he called it “a home run.” It was also “the most profitable, as we predicted, by a pretty wide margin… We exited in stronger financial shape than we entered.”
Further highlighting the crossroads of tech and entertainment, Roberts demonstrated how Netflix is being integrated into Comcast’s X1 platform. The company announced a deal with the streaming giant in July and over the next few days will begin rolling out the Netflix Beta Program, giving customers the ability to watch live, on-demand, DVR, and Netflix programming all in one place.
Comcast and Netflix were once bitter enemies and Roberts went some way towards acknowledging that saying of the latter’s CEO Reed Hastings, “We didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything” but spent some time together and “found a way to think for the consumer.” Roberts gives Hastings “a lot of credit for making it happen… The companies have gotten a lot closer.”
Comcast he added, has “made a conscious decision we will aggregate other people’s content. Some we sell ourselves and some not.” The Netflix service will be across the Comcast X1 footprint before Thanksgiving, Roberts said. He did not say, however, how the new partners would divvy up subscription revenues.
Asked his opinion on skinny bundles, Roberts mused, “I don’t know that it’s really what people want. There are certainly some who want to pay less, but I don’t know too many programmers saying they want to go à la carte and ‘it works for my business’.” Comcast is “experimenting” and there are “some customers saying they don’t want to buy it all.” But, it’s “not a majority behavior.” The focus is “to continue to make the bundle more attractive.”
NBC won the recent TV season for the third year in a row across 18-49s and Roberts sees a trifecta coming in the film business as well. “Last year, this year and “perhaps next year” will be “three of the most profitable in the last 100 years of Universal Pictures.” He spoke of the success of Illumination’s The Secret Life Of Pets which just crossed $800M worldwide and the upcoming Sing which he called “arguably the best movie (Illumination founder) Chris Meledandri has ever made.”
Overall, “Film is in great shape. Jeff Shell is doing a super job,” Roberts praised. It was “confidence and excitement” in the business, he noted, that “led us to buy DreamWorks Animation.” Of that $3.8B deal, Roberts said, “I think the value was fair. The opportunity to have more franchises and sustain recurring business across our whole company is attractive.”
Of Comcast as a whole, Roberts stated, “I don’t think anybody has the scale or the focus or the 10 years of innovation and cultural pivot that our company has had almost anywhere in the world.”
The future is full of “momentum… We have more than doubled our cash flow, which is still the main metric, since we bought NBCUniversal. The consistent strength across each business is beyond our expectation.”