The NCTA “The Cable Show” started today and first up was the HRTS/NCTA brunch featuring a conversation with Comcast (soon to be owner of NBC Universal) President and CEO Brian Roberts. The event was being moderated by Peter Chernin, a former boss at Fox who’s early beginnings were in the field of publicity. So I’ve always been a fan of Mr. Chernin’s. And at the press table, I had the honor of sitting next to CableFax’s Michael Grebb and Jeanne Wolf. I couldn’t ask for better company.
Roberts took the floor sans Chernin at the beginning to showcase his On-Demand wares. He announced that Comcast will now offer a bazillion of choices with his On-Demand service called Xfinity. They are enlarging their film archives immensely and he showed us how you can navigate and drill down to find what the consumer wants. You can search by actor’s name, genre, film festival and even donate to a cause by choosing a certain piece of content.
I also was excited to see that he mentioned that he is working with the ipad to showcase content. It was nice to hear him recognize that it’s a relevant content distribution point.
Chernin threw out a heavy piece of artillery at the start. He asked what his disappointments have been. Roberts thought he was a bit slow on the dime in the content area. He wished he had made investments 20 years ago in cable companies like Turner or Discovery.
Roberts thinks that cable has been under-valued in its contributions to the industry. In addition for being known for sending a monthly bill, cable has made advancements in content. Who wouldn’t agree to that some of TV’s most memorable shows have come from cable companies.
It was a great that Roberts pointed out that one of its shining examples at his company is Frank Eliason, who heads up ComcastCares. Frank is a rock star in social media and all those involved in the field, know that he is a trend setter who cares for his customers. It was great to hear Roberts’ recognize his contributions.
I have been around Mr. Roberts before at conferences, but I forgot how much I like him and his demeanor. I like how relaxed he is as a media mogul. He could be the neighbor next door. He’s not rushed, pretentious nor reek of the Hollywood power stench – even though he is a leader in entertainment. Maybe it’s because he runs a family company and his dad is still an ever presence. But, what I could gather from his comments, simply is:
-He understands that his success comes in taking care of customers. He is striving to make new devices easier to use for consumers which I say is brilliant. We’ ve got enough to figure out on own and any help that others give us is welcome. Smart thinking.
-He also is not going to micro-manage NBC Universal. He’s not going to shove their ways down the new company’s throat. He knows that each channel has its own distinct brand he’ll leave it at that.
-He knows the company has to transform and will and so he has to be constantly changing and he’s open to it. A company that creates is what he is excited about.
-NBC News is going to be the cornerstone to the company. He is excited about acquiring it and needs to protect it. NBC News he said will help define Comcast.
Chernin did a nice job moderating the conversation. As a former top executive at News Corp., Chernin knew first-hand some of the struggles Roberts and gang will encounter and tried his best to tip his hat to a few – like angering politicians or consumers with a subject of newscast.
It was the perfect way to kick off the convention – and I’m so glad that Roberts agreed. For is there anything bigger than this acquistion at the moment in cable?
On to the next event.