Recently, on March 6 of this year, a major tech conference was held in Palm Beach, Florida. This was the Deutsche Bank’s 25th Annual Media & Telecom Conference. This tech conference is one of the biggest annual events in the industry. It is where the who’s who of the tech industry come together.
So, it wasn’t a surprise that the President and CEO of Comcast Cable, Neil Smit, was at the conference. Not only was he at present at the venue, but also opened up before the investor conference regarding the direction in which Comcast and its subsidiary, NBC Universal are going.
When asked about the impact of over-the-top or streaming services like YouTube, DIRECTV Now, Hulu, Sony, and others, he shared his optimism for Comcast’s X1 platform. He noted that the platform is “very competitive”, and has been able to deliver amazing customer satisfaction, even though other OTT services faced numerous technological problems in the beginning.
Smit effused confidence that they “know how to compete”, clearly intended against the streaming services. Turns out, Comcast does know how to compete. Although they have lost customers who have been migrating to the streaming services for nearly a decade now, things are finally picking up for Comcast.
Just last quarter, Comcast managed to gain 80,000 new video customers. This is slightly lower than the year-ago period, when Comcast had added 89,000 new customers. However, considering that cord cutting is still a popular thing, Comcast’s growth is nothing short of a surprise to many. Comcast is also expanding to wireless phone service, which could be a risk or an asset to the company.
In fact, as recently as 2015, the company had lost 36,000 subscribers. Come 2016, they have managed to win 161,000 new customers. That’s a major achievement in favor of Comcast.
Speaking at the conference, which was webcast, Smit explained how his company, along with its subsidiary, NBCUniversal, is reinventing their tactics to fight off the competition from OTT services. He believes that the bundles (TV + Phone + Internet services), which have become immensely popular, have great value.
And then came the question on the proverbial elephant in the room – Ajit Pai and his appointment by President Trump as the new FCC Chairman. To this he replied, “we have always believed in a free and open Internet, but the current title 2 regulation, which Pai has criticized, was not the right way.”
Highlighting the spectacular growth of Comcast Cable and NBC he noted that the success of the two was not coincidental, but a product of their seamless integration. It is true that Comcast has been consolidating its hold on all the industries in which it operates.
And, it knows its limits too. Responding to a question on the increasing programming costs, Smit was quick to point out that these costs are dependent on sports and retransmission fees, which are not in Comcast’s control. Instead, Comcast is focusing on managing its costs smartly with some help from high-margin businesses like broadband services.
Smit was also happy to reiterate his company’s next big move – wireless. Comcast has struck a deal with Verizon to offer wireless services, which will be launched later this year. Once that happens, Smit expects the company to win a sizeable number of customers in a fairly short period. In fact, he appears to believe that wireless will play a major role in reducing the subscriber churn that Comcast, like any other cable service, is experiencing at the moment. For this reason, the wireless service will be mainly targeting the existing subscribers, and will be packaged as part of Comcast’s bundle.
This year is going to be an exciting one for all the technology and entertainment fans.