Brian Roberts, CEO Comcast, said his companyâ€™s future hinges on the success of video-on-demand (VOD). That, he said, is why Comcast made its (unsuccessful) $56 billion bid last February in an attempt to acquire the Walt Disney Company.
Roberts noted that Comcastâ€™s need to combine on-demand technology with content was underscored when Rupert Murdochâ€™s News Corp. purchased a controlling stake in DIRECTV, the satellite-to-home company. News Corp. already owns FOX Broadcasting.
For VOD to beat satellite, it has to provide lots of programming, whether itâ€™s Disney cartoons or, as Comcast has begun offering lately, programming packages such as the NFL Network. The NFL channel provides 10- to 15-minute replays of the highlights of all the prior weekendâ€™s football games. Comcast also recently announced a partnership with Sony and MGM to offer their libraries of movies and TV shows via VOD.
Achieving that depends on convincing content creators such as Disney to share their programming, he said. In some cases, thatâ€™s proving to be a challenge. Despite aggressive lobbying, Roberts said many content owners have been unwilling to let Comcast deliver their programs via VOD.
He said the problem is DVD sales are so good right now that movie companies canâ€™t tick off Wal-Mart, the single largest revenue source for Hollywood.
For now, Roberts said, the cable industry is teetering on a razorâ€™s edge between the old economy and the new. It has, for example, steadily eroded the ratings of broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and NBC. â€śToday, more people watch cable than broadcast television,â€ť Roberts said. â€śThis is the first year thatâ€™s been the case.â€ť But the broadcastersâ€™ advertising revenue still exceeds cable operatorsâ€™. â€śItâ€™s not even close. Broadcast advertising dollars are still double or triple cableâ€™s.â€ť
Roberts conceded that the broadcasters do still have strengths. â€śOn Thursday night, even though NBCâ€™s ratings are down, it is still the number-one destination for eyeballs. And, if you have a car you are launching, you want to get those eyeballs in the fastest way possible. Twenty years ago, [the broadcasters] had 90 percent of the viewing. Today, they have 20 or 30 percent, and they get more dollars for selling less. How long can you get away with that? I donâ€™t know.
â€śWith on-demand, we have servers with virtually unlimited content. We donâ€™t care what you want to do, we just want you to do it a lot. And you canâ€™t do any of that on satellite or broadcast.â€ť