Comcast CEO Brian Roberts On Warner Bros. Discovery – “What AT&T Does Sort Of Speaks For Itself”

The Office on Peacock Peacock

One by one titans of media are delicately weighing in on deals last month that will reshape the landscape with Comcast CEO Brian Roberts saying AT&T’s move to unload WarnerMedia “speaks for itself.”

“I look at our company and I don’t think there’s a similarity. I think for us, we are very pleased with our talent, our assets, our culture, our resources. I think we have a unique company, well positioned to compete vigorously for talent, for customers and growth in the years ahead,” he told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting today in response to a shareholder question.

The NBCUniversal parent had been seen as an interested partner for WarnerMedia despite overlaps likely to stoke regulatory concern. It could also have made a play for MGM although most parties retreated as the price-tag crept higher and Amazon scooped up the studio for $8.45 billion. But Roberts is correct, AT&T had a particular set of issues – the first being the billions it must spend to buy spectrum and roll out 5G isn’t compatible with the heavy content investment required to grow HBO Max.

AT&T will spin WarnerMedia off into a new company merged with Discovery in a $43-billion deal expected to close in the middle of next year.

The hookups, driven by streaming considerations, have put a spotlight on NBU’s Peacock, which launched last summer. Roberts said the service is “off to a great start” but acknowledged “the streaming world is extremely competitive.”

The “differentiating” factor was to make Peacock essentially free from the start, adding additional content to a premium version. The pandemic, which axed the Olympics last summer and halted production, squeezed the new content the streamer was counting on to help drive awareness.

Peacock hit 42 million subscribers in the first quarter.

“It was the library and relationships we have with our partners that helped Peacock become a breakout success in the first year. A lot had to do with Xfinity and the bundling of Peacock, and an easy way to search the platform.” With production back, “We are only going to see progress.”

Of the 42 million sign-ups, execs have estimated about one-third are actively viewing Peacock each month. The WWE Network, which Peacock absorbed in March, has helped stimulate viewing, but the service is still not carried by Amazon Fire TV or Samsung, the No. 1 smart-TV maker in the U.S. That has hampered the rollout, as has the impact of Covid-19 on production.

Meanwhile, “We will continue to invest in our NBC networks and our cable networks and find a great balance,” he said. Cable and broadcast continue “to assist that transition and contribute to value, whether advertising or fees or selling content to the streaming services. So it’s a complicated, totally intertwined ecosystem. Some companies are well positioned to take advantage of that shift,” some aren’t.

“For our company, I am really pleased where we sit.”

He skirted a question about whether theme parks would require proof of vaccination. Rules and protocols are constantly being updated, he said, and the teams have done “a great job working with local, municipal, state and CDC guidelines.”

At the broader company, he said the idea is for “most employees to be back to the office most days” in September.

Dade Hayes contributed to this report

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