Comcast's Roberts reassures DreamWorks staffers, may be thinking about Xfinity originals

A week after agreeing to pay $3.8 billion to buy DreamWorks Animation SKG, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) chief executive Brian Roberts visited the movie studio's lot in Glendale, Calif., reassuring employees that the conglomerate won't break up its purchase or move it to Philadelphia.

"This came together really fast, but has been in our hearts for a long time," Roberts said following opening remarks by DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. "We will absolutely continue to make animated films here. Today for me, Jeffrey, it's the awesome responsibly [sic] of trying to find a way to take your dream and try to carry on your legacy and celebrate it in a way that will make you proud." (Showbiz trades Variety and Deadline Hollywood covered the appearance.)

"The reason why we are here is because we love the animated movie business and we love the animated television business, and consumer products, and theme parks," added Steve Burke, CEO of Comcast's NBCUniversal unit. "If you are a student of this business, you know it's very hard to do more than two animated films per year as one organization. If we could go from two animated films a year to four animated films a year by having two different parts of our company making those films, that would really advance our desire to be everything we could possibly be in the entertainment business."

The general consensus is that Comcast is purchasing the maker of animated family films to provide intellectual property for its thriving theme parks and consumer products divisions — the model that has made Disney's 2006 purchase of Pixar so successful.

But Diffusion Group senior analyst Joel Espelien wonders if Comcast has another motivation — to make the Xfinity brand synonymous with original content.

Comcast has increasingly touted the on-demand features of its Xfinity TV brand. And with on-demand titans like Netflix and Amazon emphasizing original series and movies over acquired content these days, an Xfinity move to originals seems like a logical step, Espelien told FierceCable.

Comcast doesn't have to launch a new channel, he said, "just do some shows, something they can spin their promotion behind. People don't market services anymore, they market shows. When was the last time you saw a Netflix ad promoting their service? It's been a long time. They promote their originals. It's a retention device. They can say, 'Sure, you can leave Xfinity, but you're not going to have this great stuff anymore.'"

For more:
- read this Deadline Hollywood story
- read this Variety story

Related articles:
Universal Pictures chief on Comcast's DreamWorks purchase: 'Movie business was everything they didn't like'
Comcast pays $3.8B for DreamWorks Animation, puts 'Minions' mastermind in charge
Rumor mill: Comcast looking to get its Disney on with possible $3B DreamWorks Animation buy