Between his roles as chairman and CEO of Comcast and chairman of NCTA’s board, Brian Roberts was scheduled to the nth degree. He stopped long enough Tuesday afternoon to chat for a few minutes about Comcast’s broadband plans, the sudden burst of online video including Disney’s plans to stream ad-supported episode of current shows, and the need for the industry to invest in higher speed brtoadband now, not later.
Between now and next year what’s going to happen in terms of your broadband product? How is that going to tie in with what you’re doing with the (Sprint Cable) JV? Roberts: Well, I think the broadband content is going to continue to have more and more video. I think that’s great. Amy Banse, Sam Schwartz are trying to reenergize our broadband strategy from a content standpoint and I hope a year from now we’ve made a lot of progress towards being a leader for our customers and others to be able to access the best video experience using the ever increasing speed of the internet. I was out looking before and one of the exciting areas is channel-bonding, just a discussion a couple of years ago that appears to be getting close to being real where you’re going to be talking about 100 Mbps of speed. So, while everyone seems to be solely focused on wireless — and I think wireless is very important and we’re obviously very pleased with some of the things we’ve already announced at the show here — let’s not lose focus of wired experience in broadband really going to unheard-of places. Whether it’s 12 months or a little longer I think you’re going to see big strides made. We’re working on both the content side and the speed side.
That takes you in two different directions in some respects because you’re both an operator and a content provider. How do you take what each side needs and make sure the company as a whole gets what it needs? Roberts: Well, I think the content side will benefit greatly if the speed keeps going and the distribution side is having a great year because the market appears to be recognizing this is a better product than DSL. We’ve got to make sure that remains the case and that we speed up even more and we have richer content. At the same time, we recognize we can’t do it all ourselves. It’s not like we want to in any way not see Google succeed, Yahoo succeed and online video — I’d say if there’s one misperception it’s that video coming to the internet is going to be good. I’m basically pleased to see more content. A year ago people were saying,’when are we going to see more content?’ Now we’re seeing more content. That’s great and the broadband sales are accelerating as a result.Sp you may benefit on the broadband side from what Anne Sweeney announced yesterday in terms of Disney? Roberts: I said that on the panel yesterday. It’s not that there aren’t issues to discuss when you take content that someone’s paying for and then get a second use of it, what does that do to the economics, how does that work? There are a lot of complex things to be discussed better done in private but big picture? The day “Desperate Housewives” was put on an iPod we went “Hallelujah” because the windows have finally gone and changed and, since then, we’ve made our partnership with CBS, relationship with NBC, we’ve got 500 movies. Lots and lots is changing at a breathtaking speed.
When you were first launching VOD â