Roberts: Cable Is Still Leading the Way

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Philadelphia — Comcast Corp. chairman and CEO Brian Roberts told a packed audience at the CTAM Summit here last Tuesday that despite fears of telco competition, the cable industry is on the upswing.

Roberts, in his acceptance speech for the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing's Grand Tam award, spoke of a recent trip to Israel for the Maccabiah Games (he captained the U.S. 40-and-over squash team to a gold medal).

While there, Roberts was struck by how different the country was from its international perception as a war zone.

“It reminds me of the moment we're in, in some ways,” Roberts said. “If you were to believe the stock analysts' reports and some of the press, you would believe cable's future is in doubt, that the competition is too tough, that forward progress has ceased. Well, not me.”

Comcast and other MSOs are on track to report 10% and above revenue growth this year, he said,while big telcos like SBC Communications Inc. wrestle with 1% revenue growth in a quarter.

“We're miles ahead on video and increasing our lead with [video-on-demand],” Roberts added. “We're the leader in high-speed data and increasing our speeds and our offerings. We're coming on strong in the telephone business. The entrepreneurial spirit in cable is second to none. We work hard, we have the best technology and we push forward.”

But Roberts warned the cable industry shouldn't ignore the telco threat. Instead, it should continue to innovate. “I believe if we push ourselves and learn from other industries and other nations, we're going to succeed and prove the naysayers wrong,” Roberts said.

Roberts added that cable's response to telco DSL price cuts shouldn't be to match those discounts but to educate consumers about the superiority of cable.

“I'm not sure the way to build great businesses is to keep discounting,” he said. “We continue to believe and continue to charge for our services a rate that we think is a great value because the product is so much better. When Hyundai cuts their prices, BMW isn't exactly upset about it,”Roberts said during a question-and-answer session with Cable News Network's Larry King.

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