Roberts: Ops, Programmers Are Partners


New York -- Comcast Corp. president Brian Roberts called for a partnership
between cable operators and programmers at an analyst conference here

"We need to have a partnership with the content community that is healthy,"
Roberts said at Comcast's analyst day. "I don't think there is a need for
regulation or new laws. This should be something you can work out in the
marketplace. We need each other."

But while Roberts was preaching unity, he also hinted that new technologies
on the horizon could be more of a threat to programmers than a decline in
affiliate fees.

Roberts said he saw the video-on-demand platform serving as the launching pad
for personalized television, and he used ESPN -- which has been under fire from
operators for its 20% rate increase -- as an example.

Roberts said that in the not-too-distant future, technology would allow a
cable operator to take a show like ESPN's SportsCenter and split it into
10 segments, each of which viewers could choose depending on their

"VOD to me is a platform, not a product, and what you're seeing right now is
version 1.0," he added.

While Roberts admitted that personalized TV wouldn't work today because it
would disaggregate viewers, and programmers are in the business of selling
advertising, he added that this could change quickly.

"Just as cable came along and some broadcasters jumped in and some ran the
other way, I think you're going to see the same thing as this technology
evolves," Roberts said. "If I were a content company, I would embrace this
change that is coming, because what I see coming if they don't do that is the
Napster effect of this open world we live in."