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INTX 2016: Smit Says Information Key in Programming Negotiations

Set-top box data on viewership is becoming an increasingly important tool in programming carriage negotiations, Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit told an industry audience Thursday, adding that while it hasn’t totally swung the pendulum in favor of distributors, it has given them a new tool to determine a network’s worth.

 “What’s happening is we’re going into the conversations with much more data, and more facts and we’re better informed over the value prop of the content and that makes a big difference,” Smit said at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications conference in New York. “Good content is always something we’re going to want more of; comprehensive content and across more platforms.”

Smit stopped short of claiming that the pendulum has swung in favor of distributors over content providers, but added that as programming is spread out over several different platforms its worth can be diluted.

“As it goes out across OTT players and whatnot, it can diminish the value to us because it’s less concentrated,” Smit said.

Smit said he believes OTT isn’t going away any time soon, but said it “I think there are going to be a handful of players revolving around the space,” Smit said.  “We haven’t seen a model yet that is as profitable for us as packaging video within our footprint with HSD or phone or home security. We think the best return for our dollar is delivering within our footprint.”

While new OTT services seem to come on the scene every day – Hulu, of which Comcast is a part owner, recently announced plans for its own OTT service – Smit isn’t convinced an out-of-market play is in the cards for the operator.  

“We get the best return out of the capital we’ve already invested into the network where we pass 45 million to 55 million homes where we’re only 42% to 43% penetrated,” Smit said. “We see a lot of growth in that.”