Roberts: Stay Creative, Invest

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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 last week at a dinner honoring him.

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

NAMIC officials said the dinner — of 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 it reported solid earnings but also said that it stepped up capital spending to meet consumer demand for products like digital video recorders. Despite that, it’s important that the industry remain financially aggressive to take advantage of inevitable changes in technology, he noted.

“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 answering a Deutsch question.

“I’m sure we’ll be more digital and more wireless,” he said. “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 men and women 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 workforce 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 workforce 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.

“It’s all about the people that you surround yourself with at the senior level and the kind of values that they bring to the table. It starts with my dad,” he said, referring to company founder Ralph Roberts, “and it’s continued. And it’s getting better, but we have a long way to go.”

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