News

Decline of DVDs Is a Cable Opportunity to Open Windows

6/07/2010 5:27 AM Eastern

Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
— The decline of the DVD business
— Hollywood’s current “biggest
challenge” — is creating an
“obvious solution” that the cable
industry can provide: digital sellthrough
and video on demand,
said Comcast chief operating officer
Steve Burke.

“We think we’ll be in a unique position
to craft that solution,” Burke
said at The Wall Street Journal’s D:
All Things Digital conference. It’s
essential for cable companies to
develop such delivery solutions, he
said.

“If we don’t create that model, eventually
every content producer will put
their material on the Internet,” Burke
said.

Burke also addressed the timing issue
with regard to distribution windows.
“If you look at windows that
exist today, they’ve been narrow. You
want to have different windows but
they must have a purpose,” he said.

The Comcast executive voiced
optimism about ongoing retransmission-
consent negotiations. He
acknowledged that his company’s
proposed deal for control of NBC Universal
will be “on both sides” of those
talks, but he thinks that most broadcasters
are finding ways to resolve
conflicts about the matter.

Throughout his remarks, Burke
emphasized that “content and distribution
are better together.”

“Content and distribution don’t
naturally work together unless we
make them work together,” Burke
said.
He also expressed enthusiasm about
the role of Hulu, which Comcast will
own a piece of after the NBC Universal
joint venture with General Electric
closes.

“Whether it’s Hulu or Fancast [Comcast’s
own video replay service], people
want their shows ... and are going to get
their shows” anytime and everywhere,
Burke said. He acknowledged that the
ad-supported nature of the delivery “remains
to be seen.”

Burke dismissed the competitive
role of Google TV, calling such ventures
“complementary.”

“Our real competitors are satellite
and telephone companies,” he said.
“To deliver the massive quantities of
video, you really need an infrastructure
that is facilities-based.”

“We’re not naïve. The first thing you
do is invest … spend the money necessary
[to attract] creative talent,” he
added.

As the first speaker after Apple
chairman and CEO Steve Jobs’ opening
presentation here, Burke led the
parade of flattery for Apple’s iPad,
calling it a “pretty competitive” device.
He cited Comcast CEO Brian
Roberts’ recent presentation at The
Cable Show in Los Angeles, where
Roberts used an iPad as a real-time
program navigation guide, and said,
“It will be great.”

Burke said that he and Roberts visited
Jobs at least five times in the past
10 years, often asking if Apple could
build an interface for the cable operator.
He said that Jobs always said
“of course” but insisted that Comcast
would have to “buy my hardware,”
which was not an appealing option
for the MSO.

As for 3DTV, another
theme at this
event, Burke said, it
is “definitely coming,”
but pointed out
that another recent
technology development — highdefinition
TV — took more than a
decade to develop a mainstream
presence.

“HD has a different dynamic,” Burke
said, noting that “it remains to be seen
what percentage of that viewing will be
done in 3D.”

March