Comcast CEO Brian Roberts On Windows, Parks & ViacomCBS SkyShowtime Deal: “We’re Looking At Other Partnerships Like That Around The World”
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts was in confident form during the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference today.
When discussing the media giants’ big picture outlook, Roberts told Goldman MD John Waldron: “We had a terrific second quarter. I wouldn’t want to trade places with too many people, if anyone…The last few years have demonstrated that scale matters…We’re trying to deploy everywhere. The company is doing extremely well. Residential broadband, business services, mobile, studios, parks, Peacock, the UK, they all have a tailwind…We can stream better and aggregate better than anyone else…Your analyst says we’ll do more than $34BN in EBITDA this year. If that happens, that’ll be our best in history. I feel great about where the company is at and in our future.”
The interview aired on the same day that Comcast announced a new smart TV it is launching with European subsidiary Sky. The XiOne is currently available in Italy and Germany to Sky Q customers and will begin its rollout in the United States to Xfinity Flex customers.
At a time when traditional media giants are being challenged by the newer streamers and by the pandemic, Roberts was keen to stress Comcast’s scale but also its ability to pivot and tie up with third parties, like it did recently with ViacomCBS to create joint streamer SkyShowtime in 20 European markets.
Roberts said of NBCUniversal’s content footprint: “We have about $20BN invested in content. We do that on our own platforms but also other platforms. We link 700 million people globally to all our brands, so that’s scale. We’re soon opening a studio in Elstree, England, where I’m going next week…We have a robust start. We’re a house of brands. The collective reach is more than 100 million active users every month to our streaming services which in the last 12 months generated more than two billion dollars in revenue. We have a lot of momentum, a lot of assets and we like to work with third parties.”
Roberts didn’t explicitly discuss ever-speculated M&A, but in reference to the ViacomCBS partnership, Roberts disclosed: “We’re looking at other partnerships like that around the world.”
UK subsidiary Sky, which Comcast bought for $39BN in 2018, came in for particularly warm words from the CEO: “I would argue that the Sky brand in the UK is better than any of the brands in the U.S., because of what it represents,” he said. “It’s not just bringing and aggregating content, it’s creating. Many content companies have renewed their relationship with Sky because there’s no better way to start out, whether that’s Netflix, Disney, or anyone else. And then there’s our new Sky Studios at Elstree…”
The exec said that Sky is “99 percent back to pre-Covid subscription levels”, and claimed the Euro brand’s UK value alone could pay off the $39BN acquisition price “over time”.
Roberts also discussed Peacock’s future and the contentious topic of theatrical windowing: “We’re looking at how to invest in Peacock. We have the flexibility to toggle as the world evolves. Boss Baby 2 was a movie that had big success going day and date and Halloween will be the same [day and date]. A big decision we made was around Pay 1 movies. I give the team at Universal tremendous credit for reinventing what Pay 1 is. Instead of an 18-month window, we broke it into three chunks, and Peacock took the back end, meaning if it was an Amazon or Netflix deal those companies took the middle and we had the most attractive front end window for ourselves.”
Roberts said he was happy with Peacock’s subs numbers, which he pegged at 20 million users each month and 54 million sign ups in the year.
He ended the session by sounding a positive note about the future of parks: “There is a momentum for sure that this is a business we want to continue investing in,” Roberts said.
The studio opened its supersized Universal Beijing theme park on Monday. “It’s thrilling,” Roberts said.
Given the pandemic context, Roberts noted that the company will need to be “patient” but said that “in Orlando, in our second quarter, we were back.”
Roberts said the company’s incoming Orlando site Epic Universe, which will be its biggest U.S. park to date, will open in “the next several years.”
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