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Comcast Eyes Broadband Offsetting Declining Pay-TV Subs

16 Sep, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts

Despite ongoing drops in video subscribers, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts remains bullish on the pay-TV business — a stance the executive buttresses with an ace up his sleeve: Broadband connectivity.

Comcast Cable lost 151,000 video subs year-over-year in the most-recent fiscal period to finish with a base of 22.4 million subs. While increasing numbers of pay-TV subs abandon the traditional TV channel bundle for less-expensive over-the-top video services, accessing streaming video still requires a broadband connection — a market Comcast now spearheads.

Indeed, Comcast added 203,000 broadband subs in the period to finish with 22.5 million subs — topping video subs for the first time. The company plans to end the year with about 11 million Wi-Fi hot spot locations across the country.

Roberts said that as more consumers rely on streaming video, they’ll need wireless access outside of the home, in addition to broadband connectivity. Comcast is the largest Internet service provider in the country with more than 56% market penetration.

“One of the first times I ever met Bill Gates, he said someday you will have more data customers than you have video customers,” Roberts said Sept. 16 at the Goldman Sachs 24th Annual Communacopia Confab in New York. “We had the best second quarter [in terms of video subs losses] in nine years, [but] it still was a loss, so we’re not declaring victory.”

Meanwhile, the CEO said the cabler continues to improve the pay-TV experience through enhanced stacking rights to episodic programing, launching of a new video platform called “Stream,” and continued rollout of the X1 set-top, which operates a cloud-based DVR, features improved video-on-demand functions, including content recommendation software.

Roberts said another tech innovation involves a new TV remote control with which users can search for programming and language preferences through voice commands.

“[If] you talk to the remote in Spanish, the whole guide changes into Spanish because it’s cloud-based,” he said. “We’ve put a million of these remotes out [into the market] in the last several months; we’re doing 70,000 [remotes] a week.”


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