Brian Roberts on the TWC purchase: 'It was now or never'

Sitting alongside Re/code technology blog impresarios Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg in the pair's iconic red chairs Wednesday at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) CEO Brian Roberts laid out the corporate urgency behind his company's proposed $45.2 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC).

"Our judgment was the company was going to be sold and if we wanted New York and Los Angeles, it was now or never," said Roberts, who described Comcast as still being viewed largely as a "regional cable provider," despite its ownership of a major entertainment conglomerate in NBCUniversal.

Roberts said this perception has hampered Comcast in its efforts to form industry partnerships with companies like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX).

The federal approval of its TWC acquisition would give Comcast the major urban area subscriber base it seeks. It would also trigger the activation of a separate $20 billion deal to port 3.9 million more rural Comcast subscribers to Charter Communications. This would leave Comcast with about 30 percent of the pay TV market, and much of its subscribers in big cities.

The event was attended by Deadline Hollywood and a handful of other media-, entertainment- and technology-focused publications. (As Re/code noted, Comcast is one of their investors.)

Separately, Roberts told the Code audience that he remains on good terms with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, despite the latter's misgivings about the peering deal Netflix recently signed with Comcast.

"They used to spend three-quarters of a billion dollars for postage" to mail DVDs to subscribers, Roberts said. "They would like [their broadband costs] all to be free. I don't blame them for that."

Roberts also objected to critics of the TWC purchase claiming the deal would give Comcast a "monopoly" in the pay TV market. "The business isn't that way anymore," Roberts said. "You can get [pay-TV services] from Dish TV, you can get it from Verizon, you can get it from DirecTV."

For more:
- read this Deadline Hollywood story
- read this Re/code story

Related links:
The Comcast Show: Has Brian Roberts become cable's Steve Jobs?
Discovery's Zaslav: Comcast-TWC merger 'raises some real issues'
AT&T-DirecTV combo promises new challenges for Comcast-TWC merger
AT&T-DirecTV merger may provide much needed cover for Comcast
Willner tapped as CEO of new Comcast-Charter SpinCo venture

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