Don’t Miss: Photos From The Web 2.0 Summit
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts sat down to talk with John Battelle at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. (See all of our coverage here.)
- Twitter has changed Comcast’s culture. Roberts won’t take credit for his company’s huge presence on Twitter, but he’s very happy about it.
- Net neutrality is a solution seeking a problem. Comcast believes in the “open” Internet, but probably doesn’t think regulation is necessary.
- Web video is friend, not foe. Roberts showed off a demo of OnDemand Online, the company’s log-in-so-we-know-you-subscribe-to-cable tool for watching more Web video than is currently available online.
- Yes, your cable bill will go up. But Roberts hopes at least you’ll get more value out of it.
LIVE notes follow. Direct quotes in quotation marks; all else paraphrased.
Roberts jokes. NBC deal is “all done.” Harhar.
What is it about content business that is interesting to Comcast?
Can’t comment on any specific situation. Why do we like the cable programming business? As many of you know, my father started Comcast 40 years ago — was over 40 years old when he started the company. (Was in the pants and cufflinks business.) Feel very lucky that he had the vision to wire up part of America. Even the first Comcast was communications and broadcasting. Wanted to work for himself, wanted to start his own business.
If you go back in history, Ted Turner came along with that same passion. Took first generation of cable and said, let’s just take cable programming. At its essence, people want to get connected to content that they love. Can make the case it’s going to grow in value. All pieces of content in the food chain are not created equal. But every time we’ve gone it, good things have happened.
We like the two sources of revenue: Subscription and advertising. And distribution capabilities to create more and more channels, whether wireless, Internet, etc.
JB: Internet industry has always kind of felt cable business was kind of a dead duck. Let’s fast-forward. You are now the largest ISP in the U.S. (Residential.) Which part of that business do you see emerging of that ISP business and cable sub business, and how does that work in terms of revs and cash flow?
BR: Video 50%, Internet around 1/3, now in other businesses like phone. I don’t think that we can control the answer to that question. What I think we’re in the business is delivering the best experience imaginable. How they pay for it will evolve over time. (Snore.)
BR: Will roll out Docsis 3.0 for over 65% of company this year. Frankly, we don’t have a business plan for how to pay for it. But it was expensive. Belief you’re going to use them 10-20 years from now.
Once Bill Gates said two-way business would be bigger than one-way business. Most people didn’t know what that was. Now it’s huge. Then I met Eric Schmidt, who said he just switched to Comcast. Most Google searches go over broadband. Roberts says his college-age son keeps in touch with friends via Xbox live.
Going to keep investing. Someday something is going to need all that bandwidth, just as Yahoo and Google wouldn’t be around if not for broadband today.
BR: I don’t think it’s true that US is behind Japan and Korea. 50 mbps in Japan is 50 megabits — for one second. Why is adoption different in Asia? That’s a different question. But availability isn’t the problem here. Yes, there is rural population that’s a different problem here. But I don’t believe the infrastructure providers haven’t done as well here as elsewhere. And Seoul is different topography — different situation. But I think America is too hard on ourselves. I don’t fundamentally believe it’s true that we’re 15 years behind.
JB: Are you concerned about cord cutting?
BR: First of all, so far, data does not suggest that people in mass want to do that. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to supplement my experience with another Apple-like product, or TiVo, or Sling, or whatever is the hot idea of the year. And one of the things we want to do as Comcast is have philosphical mindshift to welcome and embrace that world. But if you specifically say, OK, every show is on the Internet, and we know that’s what consumers would like to have happen, what could we do to bridge that?
Pulling up a demo. Beta going on right now, going to launch nationally by the end of the year. Fancast site. (Comcast’s Hulu-like site.) Not everything that’s on cable, because different companies. It has everything that’s on Hulu and more. Ad-supported site available everywhere, over 9 million uniques. Wanted to be one of first cable companies… I think video over the net is friend, not foe. That’s how we’re managing our company.
Now, a trial. Several thousand people using this. (This is the “TV Everywhere” kind of thing.) “Comcast TV on Fancast” banner showing. First thing pops up is Wall-E. Because you have Starz, you can watch this movie. You’ve been authenticated. Scroll down. We offer TV episodes, movies. Final version will launch end of this year, will look different.
JB: This feels like replication with Web skin of cable model.
BR: It’s OnDemand Online. “It’s so much better than your TV experience.” Because not bound by storage in cable box or Web end, here’s every episode of Entourage ever. “Video on demand on steroids.” Remote DVR will be part of this, too. Can set DVR. Every Comcast HBO customer by the end of the year. Trying to give consumer a big step forward.
Laid out a vision called project infinity. Goal is to have more than anyone else has. Any piece of content — the content owner can choose how it reaches consumer. Whether huge OnDemand… btw, amezing things happening on TV. 13 billion TV shows ordered on demand just in our footprint. That’s twice of all iTunes music videos downloaded.
JB: Do you fear Apple? BR: I think Apple is an amazing company. You’d be not doing your job if you didn’t think of all possible scenarios. Met with Steve Jobs half a dozen times the last several years. How do we make Apple TV a great experience? Lots of live stuff we have that they don’t.
Net neutrality? What do you make of that? I think you just hit my number one point. Tell me exactly what it means and what problem we’re solving that requires an act of government. This has a very different feeling to a lot of different people. New chair of FCC: Very capable, very likable, take at his word that he’s going to be very fact-driven, open and transparent. Asking a lot of questions. This idea that we’re not going to have an open Internet is just not realistic. We have an open Internet. $350 billion collectively to “wideband” or wherever we’re headed next. How much regulation comes in… does that stifle investment… we welcome conversations. But what problem are we fixing?
A lot of companies have said that we’re afraid that companies who have pipes will give preference to packets with more profit. We’ve heard this for a long time. We’re going to be active participant, but how many of your businesses running over somebody’s platform and that platform… you want it to be reinvested in, you want those companies not to crap out. But every time — the few limited examples, including our own — that have gotten notoriety, usually get dealt with in like 10 seconds. By the time the government comes along… the problem that was there… you probably couldn’t have one definition of what all those companies have signed on to.
Bandwidth caps? Tiny percentage of people use like 1/3 of bandwidth. Need to deal with that somehow. Need to be transparent, fair.
Comcast doing good job with brand on Twitter, etc. Happened on its own. BR did not have that idea. Fascinating to see how quickly you can change a company. Has it changed the culture of the company? “I think so,” says BR.
How many of those subs are happy? If you get 99% right… 3 million are unhappy. So you start with that. 11 people in Frank’s Twitter land.
Audience question: 5 years, customer service has improved, but moved into house last year and became tripla play customers, and went through very complex calculation… best bundle was $155/month. Recently got a notice that bundle had expired, new bundle was $180. Then first bill that said I was saving $85 a month. Wow. What can I expect going forward on bill going forward? “You got me in a tough spot here.” Laughter. Everybody’s services are probably different. Where I think we’re at, the reality is, I hope we can provide you a different experience than what you’re getting today, that you value highter. (I.E., OF COURSE your cable bill will go up!)
Number one iPhone app is i.TV, and we take all our on-demand and give it to them. We see the world changing. Openness of our platform is going to change. We see where the world wants to go. We want to give you long-run… 15% is not realistic, not everywhere, in general video prices up 2.5%, haven’t raised broadband rates in a long time. There’s more competition.
Microsoft guy. Happy customer. Tru2Way — two years ago at CES, all these amazing devices. Still waiting, when is it coming? Well, I think we’re on the road. I think we have some good and some bad as from what we thought would happen. TV manufacturers changed so fast, can’t necessarily build into TV what you can build into a box. Just a TV with no box… if it gets obsoleted, what can we do? Tru2Way pretty much rolled out across footprint, making progress to get it in our own boxes. 20% soon. I believe it’s part of the true vision to where we have to go, which is an open platform, so we can have people like Microsoft developing apps for us. Also see IPTV coming along, and EBIF platform, too. Uber answer is, specifically, we need interactivity. Satellite can’t do it, so we have a selfish reason. Taking legacy business and bringing it to modernization is job one. And if you guys can help us do it faster…
Friends on east coast raving about Cablevision wifi service. When is Comcast going to give us ubiquitous wifi? We are very excited, and haven’t made a public announcement to that question, not going to do it today, we see the same excitement. We have a fascinating investment in Clearwire. We have ability to put wifi in places. This is a big part of our future. Enabling these devices to be open and working and synced up.