Roberts Bullish on Comcast’s Cable Cash Flow

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Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts pledged to boost cash-flow margins at the company’s cable operations to 40% by the fourth quarter of this year, but he was vague about the Philadelphia-based MSOs interest in acquiring additional programming content.

Speaking at the Citigroup Smith Barney Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Phoenix Wednesday, Roberts said he was encouraged by margin expansion at the former AT&T Broadband systems -- cash-flow margins rose from 26% to 33% last year -- and, coupled with strong margins at its historic Comcast systems (about 43%), the MSO should be able to achieve that goal.

Currently, combined cash-flow margins at the cable properties are about 37%.

"That is going to put the whole company at the high-end of cable ranges," Roberts said. "In the long term, we don’t see any reason why the new systems should ever be any different than the historical systems."

But Roberts was vague concerning Comcast’s acquisition plans. Several published reports have stated that the company is in discussions to purchase cable channel TechTV from Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. According to those reports, Comcast would combine its G4 gaming network with TechTV.

"TechTV has great distribution, but the channel hasn’t quite taken off. We’ve got G4 that we are very excited about, but it doesn’t have great distribution," Roberts said. "Maybe there is a marriage there, who knows?"