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Burke: Local Focus Wins Battles Against Telco, DBS Competitors

Comcast COO Steve Burke at an industry conference Tuesday said that cable operators who focus on local markets and local marketing can win the battle against satellite and telco competitors.

“The key to dealing with an overbuild situation is to be very local,” Burke said at the Merrill Lynch 2008 Media Fall Preview in Marina Del Rey, Calif. “That means more feet on the street. That means more tailored promotions. That means more knocking on doors. And doing all of those tactics and not dealing with an entire market as if it was all overbuilt. In places where we’re competing against FiOS, we’re doing better this year than we were last year or the year before.”

Cable has done well already in competing against telco digital subscriber line high-speed data service. And Burke said that he expects cable companies, Comcast included, to continue taking share from DSL.

“There are about 15 million DSL customers in our footprint,” Burke said “I would love to see us—through DOCSIS 3.0 and continuing to be aggressive—take 5 or 7 or more million DSL customers away from the RBOCs and back to cable over the next few years.”

Burke also gave an update on the cable interactive advertising venture, dubbed Project Canoe. He added that Canoe CEO David Verklin has already named a chief technology officer—former Advance/Newhouse Communications executive Arthur Orduna—and has hired about one dozen people for the venture. He also said that individual cable companies have announced some early initiatives—including the VOD political advertising initiative Election 2008 launched by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Cablevision, Cox and BrightHouse.

“I think what you are going to see in the next six to 12 months is more and more of those announcements,” Burke said. “And then someday it’s going to be a very substantial business for us.”

Burke later estimated that cable advertising is about a $5 billion to $6 billion business annually for the industry. He projected that with interactive capabilities, that pot could double or triple over time.

Burke said that Verklin has just started discussions with advertisers about interactive services, but said that so far the feedback has been favorable.

“The interesting feedback we’ve gotten so far is that whether it’s big cable content channels or broadcasters, they’re as excited, if not more excited, about this than we are,” Burke said.