Roberts: Stay Creative, Invest


New York -- If Comcast Corp. stays nimble, it should be poised to ride the wave of new technological innovations influencing entertainment over the next quarter century, the cable company’s CEO said Thursday at a dinner honoring him.

Brian Roberts, interviewed by CNBC’s Donny Deutsch (The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch) at the dinner here celebrating the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications’ 25th anniversary, said Comcast is in the enviable leadership position of providing a wide array of services -- including cable, broadband, wireless- and wireline-telephone service -- that will serve consumers’ communication needs over the next 25 years.

NAMIC officials said the dinner -- in which the Roberts interview was the centerpiece draw -- raised $500,000 for its various programs and services.

Cable companies are taking a beating on Wall Street, Roberts said, and Comcast’s stock took a hit recently after the MSO reported solid earnings but also said it stepped up capital spending to meet consumer demand for products like digital-video recorders. But it’s important that the industry remain financially aggressive in order to take advantage of inevitable changes in technology, he added.

“The key is to make sure you don’t ‘miss it,’ whatever ‘it’ is,” Roberts said, declining to predict what “we’ll be watching” 25 years from now in answer to a Deutsch question. “I’m sure we’ll be more digital and more wireless,” he added. “But a majority of people are still going to watch television, they’re still going to talk on the phone, now they’re going to surf the Internet more than ever. It’s going to be 25 years of new discovery, and I think we’ll be at the center of all that and not a dinosaur if you run your company with creativity and imagination.”

On the issue of employee diversity, Roberts said hiring employees of different ethnic and racial backgrounds will continue to play a critical role for cable’s success. Comcast’s mandate to provide diversity within its supplier relationships, its work force and its programming is embedded in the philosophy of its top executives, including chief operating officer Steve Burke and executive vice president David Cohen, he said.

Roberts credited those “two white males” with leading the work-force diversification of Comcast’s urban systems, the launch of dedicated Hispanic-targeted programming tiers and the development of Asian- and African-American-targeted networks AZN and TV One, respectively.