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NBCU Says Its Strong Upfront Ad Sales Cut Pricing Gap With Competition

NBCU Says Its Strong Upfront Ad Sales Cut Pricing Gap With CompetitionNBC and cable networks led by USA “were trading at a 20% discount to our competition” in the cost-per-viewer of ad sales before the recent upfront market, NBCU chief Steve Burke told analysts this morning. “We’re now at about a 10% discount.” Comcast‘s entertainment arm says it bucked a trend in the upfront — seen as generally down 5% vs last year — as it benefits from the growing popularity of its shows, and a decision to sell broadcast and cable ad inventory together. “If the industry was down 5% and we were up 10%, that’s a 15% difference vs what we would have done” if NBCU had sold broadcast and cable separately. “It’s a swing of $750M” that will go “a long way toward closing monetization gap.”
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Comcast Reports Mixed Q2 Financials As NBCU Films Slip, Offsetting TV Strength

By | Tuesday July 22, 2014 @ 4:13am PDT

Comcast Reports Mixed Q2 Financials As NBCU Films Slip, Offsetting TV StrengthComcast has become so big and complex that its earnings are almost always mixed — and Q2 was no exception, although the combination of soft revenue growth with strong profits sent shares up 2.1% in pre-market trading. The cable giant reported net income of $2.03B, +16.1% vs the period last year, on revenues of $16.84B, +3.5%. Analysts expected the top line to come in a little higher, at $16.95B. But earnings at 76 cents a share handily beat the consensus forecast of 72 cents.

NBCUniversal also seemed to have a split personality with operating cash flow +20.4% to $1.43B while revenues were +0.3% to $6.02B. The main Cable Networks operation saw sales grow 2.6% to $2.48B with affiliate fees +4.2% while ad sales fell 2.2%. Still, by controlling costs, the unit’s operating cash flow rose 6.3% to $914M. The Broadcast Television unit told a similar story: With rising retransmission consent fees, its revenues increased 4.9% to $1.8B. Image (4) the-voice-judges__140601175730-275x183.jpg for post 738728But ad sales fell 1.7%, which the network partly attributes to having fewer hours of The Voice than it had last year. Still, broadcast operating cash flow increased 16.2% to $240M reflecting, the company says, “a slight increase in operating costs and expenses.” Theme Parks proved to be NBCU’s most consistent performer despite the increased costs for Orlando’s The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley attraction which opened this month. Attendance and spending were both up, resulting in a 12.8% increase in revenues to $615M with … Read More »

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Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Reups Contract To 2015

By | Tuesday July 1, 2014 @ 8:48am PDT

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Reups Contract To 2015No surprise here. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, whose family controls the company, has extended his contract for one more year to June 30, 2015. Roberts’ decision comes as the Comcast’s $45.2 billion offer for Time Warner Cable remains under regulatory review. According to a proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Roberts earned $31.36 million last year, up from $29.1 million in 2012.  During Roberts’ oversee of Comcast, the cable company bought NBC-Universal in 2011.

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CEO Brian Roberts Says X1 Rollout Is Comcast’s Top Priority For 2014

By | Wednesday May 28, 2014 @ 12:06pm PDT

Brian Roberts seatedWell, presumably, that little $45.2 billion merger with Time Warner Cable might also occupy some corporate attention, but Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said his company will focus on rolling out its prized X1 entertainment delivery platform and related Xfinity service. “Our priority this year is rolling out X1,” Roberts told attendees at the Code Conference today in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. “It’s a game-changer, and the reason it’s such a game-changer is that we’re taking the guts of what we do and putting it in the cloud. The stinking cable box is the wrong platform. The moment we leave that box in your household, it begins to become obsolete.”

Related: Comcast’s Brian Roberts: It Was “Now or Never” on Time Warner Cable Deal

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Comcast’s Brian Roberts: It Was “Now Or Never” On Time Warner Cable Deal

By | Wednesday May 28, 2014 @ 11:40am PDT

Brian Roberts with Walt Mossberg and Kara SwisherWith an aggressive Charter Communications takeover looming over Time Warner Cable, Comcast executives felt like they had only one chance if they wanted to buy the LA and NYC systems they didn’t already own, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said at this morning’s Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. “Our judgment was the company was going to be sold and if we wanted New York and Los Angeles, it was now or never,” Roberts said. The company was trying to move beyond a persistent perception of it as a “regional cable provider” that hampered deals with potential partners such as Reed Hastings of Netflix in years past. Even with the big 2010 acquisition of NBCUniversal still being digested, the company needed to move fast with its $45.2 billion offer for TWC, which is still under regulatory review. Comcast also signed a $20 billion side deal to sell or swap out 3.9 million of the subscribers with Charter to further concentrate operations in big cities and keep below a self-imposed limit of 30 percent of the U.S. cable TV market. That deal is contingent on the main acquisition going through.

Related: CEO Brian Roberts Says X1 Rollout Is Comcast’s Top Priority For 2014

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Cable Show: Charter CEO Slides By Question About His Change On Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal

Tom Rutledge 1Charter CEO Tom Rutledge seemed a bit like Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel talking about his amp going to 11 when CNBC’s Jon Fortt asked exactly the right question in a panel today at the National Cable Show: What changed to make him support Comcast’s $45B acquisition of Time Warner Cable, which Charter opposed last month saying would leave Comcast controlling “nearly 40 percent of the broadband market, around 33 million TV subscribers and a major programmer in NBCUniversal”? The real answer is that Charter logoCharter was bought off this week when Comcast agreed to sell it many of the subs it had already promised to divest, making Charter the industry’s No. 2. Rutledge couldn’t say that, of course. Instead he avoided the core issue and said that “It’s a smaller deal from Comcast’s perspective and from an organization of the industry perspective it’s a much better outcome.” The companies “are committed to serving their communities and their employees and their customers.”

Related: Cable Show: FCC Chair Says “All Options” Open For Net Neutrality

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts was a little smoother in addressing a question about concentration concerns raised by critics including Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). “When you net this all out, we’re buying 7M net customers” — Read More »

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Comcast’s Brian Roberts Made $31.4M In 2013, +7.7%

By | Friday April 11, 2014 @ 2:39pm PDT

The company that owns the largest collection of cable systems plus NBCUniversal has about 3.6 times the market value of CBS — yet CEO Brian Roberts made less than half of what CBS paid Les Moonves in 2013?Brian Roberts No need to shed any tears: After all, Roberts’ family controls Comcast, and it gave him his best pay day in years for a period when the stock value appreciated 39.1%. COMCASTThe package consists of $2.8M salary, $5.3M stock awards, $5.3M option awards, $9.2M in non-equity incentives, $5.1M change in pension value and $3.7M in other compensation. NBCU chief Steve Burke came close to his boss with an 18.1% raise that brought him to $31.1M. Roberts’ take includes $192,177 for personal use of the company jet; Burke’s aircraft use came to $390,994. The board says that Roberts “continued to demonstrate strong leadership” and adds that Burke “successfully managed NBCUniversal.” In a letter to shareholders Roberts talks up Comcast’s planned $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable noting that “once again” he has called on his government affairs consigliere David Cohen “to help guide us through the government approval process so we can achieve a timely close.” The EVP, who is becoming a celeb in his own right from his appearances to defend the controversial deal, made $14M last year, down 12.1%. Comcast will hold its annual meeting on … Read More »

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Why Did Comcast’s Brian Roberts Agree To Buy Time Warner Cable?

By | Thursday February 13, 2014 @ 2:39pm PST

Let’s not overthink Brian Roberts‘ rationale for engineering Comcast‘s $45.2B all-stock deal today to buy Time Warner Cable. I don’t think he did it, as some observers say, primarily because he’s concerned about the falling number of cable video subscribers, the threat of competition from phone and satellite companies, or to help resist rising programming costs. Brian Roberts smilingRoberts pulled the trigger because he could pick up some of the country’s most important cable systems — including Manhattan and parts of Los Angeles — without having to write a check. The deal will be virtually tax free. And his power will be secure even after TWC shareholders own 23% of Comcast’s Class A shares. Roberts controls the company’s Class B shares which have 15 votes apiece, enabling him to cast a third of all votes. The deal was almost a no-brainer: Roberts keeps Charter Communications and its largest shareholder, Liberty Media’s John Malone, from becoming rival industry powers. And he scores TWC’s 11M subscribers, 52 news and local programming channels (including New York’s NY1), and two regional sports networks in Los Angeles. In addition to NYC and LA,  TWC has substantial franchises in large markets including Dallas, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Rochester, Hawaii and most of the Carolinas. They complement Comcast’s holdings in Philadelphia, Northern California, Houston, Minneapolis, Boston, Seattle, and Miami.

What A Comcast-TWC Could Mean For Hollywood
Wall Street Sees Mixed Impact From Cable Mega-Merger Plans
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Comcast Unveils Plans To Build A $1.2B Corporate Campus In Philadelphia

By | Wednesday January 15, 2014 @ 12:54pm PST

CEO Brian Roberts must really like real estate. He was intimately involved with the design and construction plans for Philadelphia’s Comcast Center – the environmentally friendly, 58-story headquarters building that opened in 2008.Comcast New Headquarters Now the cable and entertainment giant says it will break ground next door this summer on a a 59-story Xanadu to be called the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, with plans to open in late 2017. In addition to the corporate offices, the Center will have a 200-room Four Seasons hotel, and a restaurant on the top floor with 360-degree views of Philadelphia. It will cost $1.2B to build — and the state and city will help with economic development grants: $30M from Pennsylvania and $10M from Philadelphia. The company says the public cash will just be used for public infrastructure improvements. “No government dollars will be used to support the office and hotel components of this project.” Comcast will own 80% and Liberty Property Trust will own 20%. Designed by British architect Lord Norman Foster, Comcast says this will be the tallest building in the United States outside of New York and Chicago as well as the largest private development project ever in Pennsylvania. ”This is yet another historic moment for Comcast,” Roberts says. He describes the building as “a world-class media, technology and innovation center right in the heart of the City” that will “create thousands of jobs and further drive economic activity in the region.”

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Comcast Shares Rise After CEO Touts Q4 Video Sub Growth

By | Tuesday January 7, 2014 @ 12:46pm PST

The stock touched a new all-time high and is up 3.7% this afternoon after Brian Roberts said that, after 26 straight quarters of losing video subscribers, “I’m pleased to tell you that we modestly grew customers” in Q4.Brian Roberts smiling “It’s a real beginning of an exciting reversal of trends…It’s encouraging.” The Comcast CEO added that the company also is seeing higher buy rates for pay-per-view, and lower churn rates. Comcast-new-logo__130212144603-200x112Electronic movie sales also are going well: Over Thanksgiving weekend, Comcast was the top seller of home videos for Despicable Me 2, Fast & Furious 6, and The Hunger Games. He says the turnaround is mostly due to Comcast’s efforts to improve its service — not to the improving overall economy — especially as the No. 1 cable operator has introduced its X1 and X2 cloud-based, on-screen guides and platforms. Based on the early experience, Comcast will accelerate the rollout of the X1 platform to soon include a majority of its customers. Roberts also reiterated his confidence in the prospects for NBCUniversal as it closes the gap with its TV rivals in affiliate fees, retransmission fees, and ad rates. He warned, though, that in 2014 Universal Studios will have “a slower year as we ramp up for 2015″ when it will offer more sequels for its franchise hits. In a softball interview at a Citibank investor conference that coincides with … Read More »

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Brian Roberts Joins President For Golf

By | Wednesday August 14, 2013 @ 10:10am PDT

The Comcast CEO teamed up with World Bank President Jim Kim and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in a game with President Obama today at the Vineyard Golf Club on Martha’s Vineyard, according to the White House Pool Report. This coveted access to the leader of the free world may excite the imaginations of conspiracy theorists. But Brian Roberts has been close to the president for years. He endorsed the Affordable Care Act, was appointed to the White House’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council, and hosted a reception for Obama on Martha’s Vineyard two years ago. Comcast EVP David Cohen was a major fundraiser for the president’s re-election campaign.

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Brian Roberts Agrees To Run Comcast For Another Year

By | Thursday July 25, 2013 @ 11:46am PDT

Is anyone surprised? The Comcast CEO controls a third of the voting shares in the company that his father created, and that he has led for more than a decade. Still the company says in an SEC filing that it formally agreed to add a year on to the contract that expired on June 30 — making this the second consecutive one-year contract extension to the deal that took effect in 2005. There are no other changes. Last year his compensation package came to $29.1M, and the yearly take has averaged $28.1M over the last five years. Comcast shares have appreciated 40.7% over the last 12 months, and in March the company solidified its control over NBCUniversal by paying General Electric $16.7B for its 49% stake. To keep shareholders happy, it also agreed to raise its dividend by 20% and repurchase $2B of its shares this year.

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Brian Roberts Vows New Box And Network Features Will Set Pace For Innovation: Cable Show

By | Tuesday June 11, 2013 @ 8:36am PDT

Cable operators seem to have finally realized that their clunky set-top boxes and user interfaces are hurting them as they increasingly compete with Silicon Valley’s slick-looking TV devices and services. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts used his annual presentation at The Cable Show, taking place this week in DC, to announce that his company will introduce a set-top box, called XI3, that’s four times faster and three times smaller than conventional boxes — and this fall will roll out an operating system, called X2, that offers “a seamless experience” to navigate a TV set and digital devices. It will provide six guides — for general listings, kids, movies, sports, personalized recommendations, and upcoming shows based on the user’s interests. Movie listings will include Rotten Tomatoes scores and TV shows in the guide will indicate the Twitter buzz measured in tweets per hour. There’ll be a button to call up the last nine channels watched. The company also added features to help about 20% of the population that has a disability. For example, visually impaired people can receive audio feedback telling them what’s going on when they push a button on the remote. The service also will accommodate spoken search commands. Read More »

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Comcast’s Brian Roberts Made $29.1M In 2012, +8.1%

By | Friday April 5, 2013 @ 1:50pm PDT

NBCUniversal has its woes, but Comcast execs have little reason to complain about their personal incomes for 2012. CEO Brian Roberts — who controls a third of the voting shares — received a nice bump in pay in a year when Comcast stock appreciated 54%. His package includes $2.8M salary, $4.8M in stock awards, $4.8M in option awards, $9M in non-equity incentives, $4M change in pension value, and $3.7M in other compensation according to the proxy filed at the SEC this afternoon. About $3.3M from the “other” category represents deferred compensation. At least Roberts spread the wealth among his colleagues. His pay amounted to 1.4 times the median for Comcast’s four other top execs, which shouldn’t alarm corporate governance activists who become concerned when the CEO makes more than 3 times the average for other top execs named in the proxy. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke ended up with $26.3M, +11.3%. Read More »

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Comcast Shareholders Buck Management And Demand A Say On Anti-Takeover Plan

By | Friday June 1, 2012 @ 2:32pm PDT

It was a big poke in the eye for the Comcast board, and a surprise at a company where CEO Brian Roberts controls 33% of the voting shares. The owner of NBCUniversal disclosed today that shareholders yesterday cast more than 186.5M votes in favor of a management-opposed resolution calling on Comcast to seek shareholder approval before reinstating an anti-takeover plan called a poison pill which expires in November. Supporters say that shareholders could benefit if an outside company made a high offer to buy Comcast, even if management opposed a deal. A poison pill would block a hostile takeover by flooding the market with Comcast shares, making the acquisition uneconomical. ISS Proxy Advisory Services urged investors to support the resolution, saying that poison pills typically just entrench management and leave shareholders with “minimal say in the governance of the company.” Supporters also say that there’s little risk of a hostile takeover at Comcast considering how many votes Roberts controls. That carried the day as just 171.4M votes — presumably including those cast by Roberts — supported the company’s view that the poison pill would benefit shareholders. The board says that it allows management to “preempt the use of coercive takeover tactics” and seek the highest possible price from a potential acquirer. The shareholder vote is not binding on Comcast, although the board would raise a lot of people’s hackles if it ignored the results.

Related: Comcast Chief: NBCU Earnings Torpedoed By ‘Battleship’ And Read More »

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Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Rakes In $26.9M For 2011, Down 13.3%

By | Friday April 20, 2012 @ 2:08pm PDT

Brian Roberts ComcastHere’s something you rarely see: Comcast‘s top two execs ended 2011 with big compensation cuts, even though the stock appreciated 6.9% in the year. CEO Brian Roberts collected $2.8M in salary, $5.7M in stock awards, $5.8M in option awards, $5.5M in non equity incentives, $3.7M change in pension value and $3.4M in other compensation. Last year he saw more than $10.9M from non-equity incentives. Although Roberts isn’t much of a flight risk — his family founded and controls Comcast — the board says that it based his pay on that of other top media CEOs because it believes compensation is an important “tool to attract and retain the best senior executives.” NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke was close behind with $23.7M, down 31.9%. His tally: $2.2M salary, $4.4M stock awards, $4.7M in option awards, $6.7M in non equity incentives, $3.1M change in pension, and $2.5M in other compensation. This year he didn’t collect a bonus, which came to $3M in 2010, and he was down about $2M in non equity incentives.

Related: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings Collects $9.3M In 2011, A 68% Raise Read More »

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Comcast’s Brian Roberts Agrees To Pay $500K Fine For Violating Pre-Merger Stock Notification Rules

By | Friday December 16, 2011 @ 11:13am PST

UPDATED: The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission made the announcement today. Justice is filing a civil suit against Comcast’s Brian Roberts, but with the proposed settlement agreement that includes the fine. Officials went after him because this is the third time Roberts failed to report that he had been granted stock above a government-set threshold that required him to make an official disclosure. The question is: How could a company that employs so many high-priced lawyers be so sloppy?

Still, the Federal Trade Commission — which brought the case to the Justice Department — says that it only sought a modest fine. It notes that ”the violation was inadvertent and technical; that it was apparently due to faulty advice from outside counsel; that Roberts did not gain financially from the violation; and that he reported the violation promptly once it was discovered.” Comcast says that executives “take very seriously our obligations to comply with all aspects of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act and working with our lawyers we have put in place additional safeguards to ensure that an inadvertent violation does not occur in the future.” Here’s the DOJ release announcing the fine: Read More »

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Tyco CEO Ed Breen Leaves Comcast Board To Avoid Potential Conflict

By | Monday November 7, 2011 @ 1:02pm PST

His resignation takes effect on November 11 and Breen says, in a letter to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, that it’s due to the extra time that he’ll have to spend over the next year shepherding Tyco International’s new plan to split into three companies – and to avoid a possible conflict of interests with Comcast from one of his businesses which includes ADT home alarms. Tyco’s other spinoffs include a flow-control operation that makes valves and pipes, and a commercial fire and security unit. “I plan to remain involved with all three companies,” Breen says. “I will serve on the boards of the flow control and fire and security companies and will be an adviser to the ADT North American residential security company. With Comcast’s emerging presence in the residential security industry, I believe that it is appropriate for me to resign to avoid even the appearance of conflict between Comcast and what soon will be a stand-alone ADT home security company.” If you’re wondering what an executive in these businesses is doing on the Comcast board, remember that Breen ran Motorola’s cable set-top box business until 2002, when he was hired to clean up Tyco after former CEO Dennis Kozlowski pilfered the company. Kozlowski is in prison after his 2005 conviction for having received $81M in unauthorized bonuses, approving the company’s purchase of $14.7M worth of art, and paying a $20M investment-banking fee to former director Frank Walsh.

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UPDATE: Comcast Shares Up As Cable System Strength Outweighs NBCU Weakness And 3Q Earnings Miss

By | Wednesday November 2, 2011 @ 4:19am PDT

UPDATE, 6:45 AM: The company’s Universal studio had a lousy quarter at the box office, and the NBC broadcast network continues to struggle. But NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke told analysts in a conference call that advertising, especially at the national level, “continues to be a bright spot.” NBC has already sold 90% of the ads for the upcoming Super Bowl. The company continues to talk up its investments in programming at cable networks and NBC although Burke says it “is not a huge amount.” He says he wanted to let people know that “this would be a flattish year” for cash flow growth at NBCU as he spends for programming including the recent agreement to bring World Cup soccer to Telemundo. “We think we structured a very attractive long-term deal and don’t want to box ourselves into not being able to make those investments when they present themselves,” Burke said. At the cable operation, CEO Brian Roberts says he’s enthusiastic about tests in Augusta, Ga., of Xcalibur, a plan to deliver TV programming and data from the Internet cloud instead of a local cable headend. Comcast is testing set-top boxes including game consoles such as the Xbox and expects to have a trial in a major market in the first half of next year. With a programming guide delivered via the Internet, Roberts says Comcast can “move quickly to make tweaks and modifications. … It’s very, very exciting when you move the brains out of the box and into the cloud.”

The Street was impressed — mostly due to the cable system results. Many analysts expected to see a bigger loss in video subs. Comcast shares were up 3.6% in early trading. As for NBCU, “the core of the programming business is NBCU’s cable networks unit, and results there were good,” Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett says. “But the face of NBCU is the broadcast network, and while investors were braced for a weak result, they didn’t disappoint in disappointing.” Read More »

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