Roberts Says Comcast Won’t Rush Into Direct to Consumer

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts says the company isn’t rushing into the direct-to-consumer streaming business that appears to be the future to other big media companies.

“I think there's been a little bit of a rush to the traditional television business is over and we've got to get into streaming,” Roberts said during Comcast’s earnings call Thursday. “Streaming we think is very challenging economically and we don't want to rush into anything that in any way could take what has been a tremendous television business and make it worse.”

Comcast this year lost a bidding war for 21st Century Fox assets including TV and movie studios and cable networks. The Walt Disney Co. won that battle and will use those assets to stock its direct to consumer efforts.

AT&T, which bought Time Warner, recently announced that it will be launching a new streaming service that will use HBO programming as part of its allure.

The moves come amid the continued subscriber growth and stock market gains posted by Netflix and the growing threat represented by other tech companies entering the video market including Amazon, Apple and Facebook, not to mention Google’s already overwhelming YouTube.

“With all the announcements of new streaming services, we'd be remiss if we didn't look at it very carefully,” Roberts said before dismissing the notion.

“Where we come out is that streaming obviously is going to be part of our business but is not a substitute for what is currently a very good business in television,” he said.

Comcast does make money on streaming, Roberts noted.

“By the way, our shows are very popular on streaming services. The Office is often the number one show on Netflix within a month. We're a big percentage of Hulu. Our kids products that are made by DreamWorks Animation are very popular on Netflix,” he said. “So we have a lot of shows that are currently very popular on streaming services. And we're looking at different ways that we could accelerate our business in terms of streaming.”

After losing out on the Fox assets, Comcast prevailed in an auction for European satellite broadcaster Sky.

Sky’s chief executive, David Jeremy Darroch, was also on the call, introducing his company to the analysts that follow Comcast.

“We've stepped into and will continue to step into new consumer trends and technologies. So we started, for example, distributing over-the-top in the UK with a product called Sky Player as far back as 2005,” Darroch said.

“Today in all of our markets, we seek to distribute over all technologies, so whether it's over the cable networks, through our own satellite and hybrid systems, through OTT, through mobile networks, although mobile operators, for example, would carry a service like Now TV. And the reason is that we want to service most customers who are in all of our markets, and then do that in a complementary way,” he said.

Darroch added that Sky has been testing new ways to get into other markets. Sky recently launch in Spain, he said.

“What we just completed in the last quarter at Sky is put in place a new strategic OTT streaming platform, which would allow us to light up any other country very, very quickly. We'll decide as and when is the right time to do that and what's the right brand to use. But I think all of the building blocks from a European point of view are coming in place,” he said.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.