An Unconventional Vision — Brian Roberts, Comcast Chairman/CEO27 Feb, 2017 By: Thomas K. Arnold
Back in 1990, when home video — powered by the rental videocassette — was at the height of its glory days, 31-year-old Brian Roberts was given control of a $657 million cable company his father had built.
More than a quarter of a century later, Comcast Corporation is an $80.4 billion company that aside from being the country’s largest cable TV company and home Internet service provider (ISP) is one of the most important players in what we now call the home entertainment industry.
And much of the credit goes to Brian Roberts, now company chairman and CEO, who is being honored this year with Home Media Magazine’s 2017 Visionary Award.
He’s the latest in a series of honorees dating back to 2002, when Warren Lieberfarb, the father of DVD, received the same honor. Other honorees have included Sony Pictures’ Ben Feingold, Samsung’s Tim Baxter, and Walmart’s Louis Greth and Chris Nagelson
Roberts, like our other visionaries, understands the critical importance of giving consumers as many choices as possible to enjoy their entertainment, even it means breaking tradition and disrupting existing business models.
Under his direction, Comcast has spearheaded home entertainment content distribution on the Xfinity X1 platform.
Comcast in 2013 became the first pay-TV operator to sell subscribers digital movies, a move that quickly catapulted the company into the ranks of top
electronic sellthrough (EST) platforms, alongside iTunes and Amazon Instant.
As Michael Bonner, EVP of digital distribution for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment told Home Media Magazine, “Comcast’s 2013 entrée into EST was an unequivocal game changer for the digital sellthrough market. Overnight, Comcast took its place among the industry’s top digital retailers.”
Comcast added access to Disney Movies Anywhere in 2016, strengthening its position in the EST market even further.
Late last year, Comcast and four studios announced the launch of enhanced, mutable movie extras on electronic sellthrough titles on X1 — a key step in
improving the consumer offering for EST titles.
The company has also embraced direct access to streaming kingpin Netflix, regarded by most cablers as Enemy No. 1. “We got off the rails in the Time
Warner deal,” Roberts told Philly.com in November 2016. “I wanted [Netflix chief Reed Hastings] to know that we believed Netflix was important to the ecosystem. I asked him what it would take to hit the reset button.”
The reset button was officially hit on Nov. 4, when Netflix launched on Comcast’s X1 cable set-top box. As Philly.com observed, “The new service broadens consumer appeal for their respective services and helps Comcast with federal regulators who say that pay-TV
companies should integrate traditional TV and streaming services on set-top boxes.”
It’s that openness to unconventional ideas, that willingness to take risks and shake up the status quo, that has played a key role in Comcast’s success, not just with home entertainment, but overall.
It’s also why Home Media Magazine is honoring Roberts as the 2017 Home Entertainment Visionary.