Had a little trouble getting online this morning but I’m finally live from the Brian Roberts keynote. It’s the first time a cable operator has addressed CES this way and Roberts is here both as the head of Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA), which could use a public home run, and the cable industry, trying to redefine itself in an increasingly fragmented entertainment and communications world.
In fact, Roberts started off by explaining how Comcast and cable wound up on center stage here at the Venetian. A few years ago, Roberts and Time (NYSE: TWX) Warner’s Glenn Britt made a pilgrimage to CES and realized that cable was in the midst of its huge fiber-optic upgrade but was, as Roberts put it, “almost invisible.” The two snapped to action and started to change that.
Fast forward, and Roberts is here explaining the four prongs of “Comcast 3.0″: the network, the HD experience, providing the best customer service, leaders in innovation. Roberts: “In Comcast 3.0, the consumer is king. The next generation of Comcast products and services will grow out of this understanding.” At the heart of those products, the cable-wide standard called the Open Cable Platform until now and rebranded tru2way today.. Roberts: “Today we’re announcing that the age of the closed proprietary set-top box is behind us and the open tru2way is here.” The message to developers: “Write once, run on all tru2way devices.” Roberts said “virtually the entire cable industry will support it on the local level by the end of the year.”
We’ve been writing about the various announcements coming out of Comcast this show so I’m not going to go into much detail here (especially since communications glitches kept me from blogging most of the keynote live, after all). This was Comcast’s big chance to translate those announcements into interest from the CE industry and they pulled out all the stops. Roberts made an appearance at yesterday’s keynote by Toshihiro Sakamoto, president, Panasonic AVC Networks; Sakamoto returned the favor today to show off the portable combo tru2way DVR-DVD called AnyPlay. Dennis Miller, who works for Comcast’s Versus, did a video cameo explaining the company’s integrated messaging. Ryan Seacrest, who includes Comcast’s E! among his many jobs, came on for the Fancast explanation, going into the audience to hand attendees the mic so they could ask Roberts questions. He and Roberts also demoed Project Infinity, downloading Batman Begins complete with an exclusive trailer of the next Batman sequel in four minutes using Wideband, compared, according to Roberts, to seven days on dial-up or six hours on current DSL.
This wasn’t a vapor-ware production. Roberts stressed repeatedly that he was showing this is all “here, now, in the next 12 months.”