Roberts: Comcast now has 'that Silicon Valley vibe'

Facing rampant competition from satellite and telco carriers, as well as what seemed like a never-ending rabbit hole of subscriber losses just a few years ago, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has reinvented itself as a Philadelphia technology company with a "Silicon Valley vibe," one with a bright future of growth based on its X1 platform.

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That was the narrative put forth on Tuesday by Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts, speaking to media-investment analyst Jessica Reif Cohen at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment event in New York.

"If you think about today versus just five years ago, we are moving everything to the cloud," Roberts said. "We are able to have one thousand software engineers virtually connected between Silicon Valley Labs, Seattle, where we have a huge operation, and Philadelphia, to where probably we had something like two hundred eighty software releases last year alone, and this goes across now multiple businesses, not just video, but broadband, home security, apps and the list goes on and on."

Roberts says Comcast's reinvention as a media-technology company has allowed it to turn a corner.

"We had tremendous new competition and the market changed," he said. "I think we found ourselves, honestly as I look back, not with the best [growth prospects]. There was a time satellite had more high-def channels. There was a time when a new phone company showed up and there was a new kid on the block. And what we did to respond is what we've done with X1. I think we have asserted leadership and given ourselves a road map and platform that can evolve two hundred times a year, not once every two years. And that's because it's all software based, it's IP."

In the wide-ranging one-on-one with Reif Cohen, Roberts didn't go into great depth about the ongoing regulatory struggle to get Comcast's acquisition of Time Warner Cable approved. He did, however, tout the potential of Comcast's Wi-Fi business, as well as the turnaround at NBC Universal, which--as a true media conglomerate--has enabled Comcast to reap the benefits of fast-rising broadcast-retransmission fees.

"And so we've gone from nearly zero in retrans when we first made the deal for NBC Universal [in 2010] to three hundred fifty million dollars in 2014, and CBS is out there talking about a couple of billions of dollars in 2020," said Roberts, who credited NBCU chief executive Steve Burke for the turnaround in ratings and profitablity for the broadcast and cable programming division.

"I'm sitting here as I said in Rockefeller Center, and it's the team that Steve has assembled and we've assembled that gives me great optimism for where we're going," Roberts added. "I don't feel like, oh, we've climbed the mountain, and it's done. I feel we proved to ourselves and more importantly to the team of people working at the company that the marriage of Comcast and NBC Universal can work, and not only do that, it can maybe even work really well."

For more:
- read this Seeking Alpha transcript

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