Comcast's ( CMCSA) finance chief says economic softness was underway in the third quarter of last year. Speaking to investors at the Citigroup Entertainment, Media and Telecom conference in Phoenix Wednesday, Comcast CFO Mike Angelakis echoed recent comments from AT&T ( T), saying the
weakening economy has hurt its business. "We did see some softness in the third and fourth quarter," Angelakis said in the question-and-answer portion of the presentation Wednesday. He said that Comcast has some "pretty tough markets where there are a lot of foreclosures," but added that overall, the business is still growing. On Tuesday, AT&T chief Randall Stephenson set off some alarm bells by describing the telecom giant's consumer business as soft. The timing of a consumer spending slowdown comes as the top triple play players are now facing increased video competition from satellite companies like EchoStar ( DISH) and DirecTV ( DTV) as well as a big video push by Verizon ( VZ). Comcast's Angelakis said the company has tried to stem some of its customer defections by offering a lower-priced cable modem service that would rival the telco's entry-level DSL product. Another area of vulnerability for Comcast is the strong demand for high-definition video to run on new flat-panel TVs. Big high-def marketing pushes by DirecTV effectively undercut Comcast's premium video service growth leading in part to successive earnings shortfall warnings late last year.
Angelakis said the company is working to improve its high-definition message. "We don't think it is the quantity of HD channels, but the quality," he said. Comcast announced Tuesday that it was
beefing up its HD offerings this year with more video-on-demand choices and as many as 1,000 new HD show and channels. Investors worry that Comcast will have to spend a fortune on network expansion work to keep its HD promise and beat back rivals. Comcast shares were unchanged at $16.62 Wednesday.