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Comcast CFO: ‘We Have Lost Video Customers’

2 Mar, 2010 By: Erik Gruenwedel

A senior executive with Comcast Corp. March 2 said the No. 1 cable operator would continue to shed video subscribers through 2010 as ongoing economic and competitive pressures impact consumers’ abilities to pay for premium channels, pay-per-view and video-on-demand (VOD).

Speaking at an investor event in San Francisco, CFO Michael Angelakis said competitive alternatives from Telco and other cable providers would impact about 5 million Comcast households this year, offset in part by the addition of 4.3 million high-speed Internet and voice customers over the past two years.

Indeed, Comcast ended 2009 with about 32% of its households having access to alternatives such as Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse, a percentage  that is expected to go up to 42% by the end of this year, according to Angelakis.

“We have lost video customers,” he said.

He said advertising revenue at cable networks declined $265 million in 2009, despite a slight rise in the fourth quarter when not factoring in year-over-year political ads in 2008.

“I’m cautiously optimistic, [but] if there is one side that worries me it is still unemployment and housing [declines],” he said. “Those numbers are still persistently high.”

The executive said rollout of Fancast Xfinity TV — Comcast’s version of TV Everywhere — whereby subscribers can access repurposed programming online for free continued to progress slowly.

Angelakis said the typical subscriber watches about 130 hours of TV a month compared to three hours of TV online.

“A lot of the online viewing is about catching up with programs that they have missed,” he said.

The CFO said the regulatory process regarding Comcast’s $30 billion majority stake acquisition of NBC Universal began last month with the goal to close the deal by the end of the year.

If consummated, Comcast would control Universal Studios and Universal Studios Home Entertainment, among other film properties.

“We are thinking about how we plan both administratively and strategically for the businesses.” Angelakis said.

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