Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said Wednesday his company's unsuccessful pursuit of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.'s (FOXA) film, television and distribution assets does not reflect problems in the core business.
"Yes, we looked at Fox -- not because we went looking for it but because it came to market," Roberts said at Goldman, Sachs & Co.'s (GS) Communacopia telecom, media and technology conference, adding that Comcast's bid for European satellite-TV operator Sky plc had a similar motivation. "The notion that that means you don't love your core business just isn't right." Disney (DIS) ultimately wound up acquiring Fox's assets.
Shares of Comcast dipped slightly on Wednesday but were up 0.6% to $36.30 on Thursday morning.
"There is always something coming to disrupt the future," Roberts said.
Cord-cutting has led to declines in video subscribers, he acknowledged. The CEO noted, however, that Comcast had its highest broadband net additions in 10 years during the second quarter, as the company shifts emphasis from cable to the "connectivity" business.
Streaming video helps its broadband business, Roberts said. The company's "power users" use 600 gigabits per month, which Roberts said equals 90 times the usage of the average wireless customer and triple the data consumption of the company's average broadband customers. The company has integrated Netflix and Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) YouTube into its X1 television operating system and interface. "We don't care whose content you watch, just watch it through our X1 experience and we're going to be a winner," he said.
While TV ratings have declined for decades, Roberts added that NBC made more money in 2018 that any time in its history. While online video may hurt its broadcast and cable networks, Roberts said that all of the major new streaming companies have purchased its programming. "NBCUniversal continues to be the best deal we've ever done," he said.
The Comcast boss drew an analogy to radio, which has survived despite television, streaming music and other changes. "There's still a vibrant radio industry," he said. "It just isn't as attractive as it was when it was the only part of the story, but it didn't just evaporate."
While radio lives on, it reflects the difficulties of adapting to a long series of market disruptions. Bellwethers iHeartMedia Inc. and Cumulus Media Inc. went bankrupt over the past year.
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