Comcast: Don't Give Up on Video

Dec. 17, 2014
Speaking at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference last week, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Vice Chairman and CFO Michael ...
Speaking at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference last week, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Vice Chairman and CFO Michael Angelakis said he is optimistic that video can become a growth business from a subscriber standpoint again.

"We have a world class video product, " Angelakis said. "We also have say 42% to 41% video penetration .... From my standpoint, I think we should do everything we can to compete effectively and have consumers feel like they are getting a best-in-class product."

Comcast has seen video subscriber losses improving for the past 14 of 16 quarters. While Angelakis said he doesn't know for sure when video will turn the corner and grow positive subs, he said he thinks the fourth quarter will be "modestly" positive.

"The goal is (to) have the best video product and the best pipe into the home from a broadband standpoint," Angelakis said. "It feels to me like we have a better than fighting chance of going positive at this point."

When asked if X1 had been the biggest driver for the already seen improvements, Angelakis pointed out that these results had been made without an aggressive X1 rollout. "It actually goes back to when we went all-digital," he said. "When we went all-digital, we upgraded our broadband, we upgraded our video on demand, we upgraded our navigation, and we started to really focus on making sure we are doing retention right."

That said, Angelakis called X1 a "game changer" and a "real differentiator," but said it will be a combination of a number of things - VOD, cloud DVR, TV Everywhere - that will continue to make video subscriber improvements. "It is a massive team effort, but X1 right now is at the center of helping drive that," he added.

From another perspective, Comcast will continue to make "more and more" investments in its broadband business - the No. 1 growth driver. The goal, Angelakis said, is to have the best pipe going into the house, so that people can watch ESPN clips on their laptops, as well as have access to Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix.

"To have that go on, you need to have a robust broadband pipe ... we have made those investments, and I think that is a real differentiator," Angelakis said, noting the company has worked to upgrade to DOCSIS 3.0, deploy fiber and split nodes.

Comcast looks at WiFi as an extension of its broadband business, Angelakis said. Research indicates that the majority of WiFi usage is still in the home, so it goes back, once again, to having the best pipe and the fastest WiFi.

When asked if WiFi might eventually be used in a more traditional wireless service scenario, Angelakis said the company is clearly evaluating this prospect, but has no news on the subject.

"We have MVNO agreements which we have not activated with Verizon and Spring. This is a project we are spending some time on, but I don't think there is really much to report today, but you've got to believe that the trend is sort of in your favor from a technology standpoint," Angelakis said.

(Thanks to SeekingAlpha.com for use of the transcript.)