Comcast CFO Talks Netflix Deal, Wireless Rollout and Why DirecTV Now Doesn’t Worry Him

Plus, how 'dominating big nights' paid off for NBC

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Comcast isn't worried about competition from AT&T and Hulu's new streaming bundle services, nor is the company shy about competing in a new area of its own: wireless service.

Mike Cavanagh, senior evp and CFO for Comcast, talked today at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York about the company's plans for 2017. (Netflix, CBS, 21st Century Fox and Discovery Communications execs spoke at the conference on Monday, while AT&T and Verizon weighed in on Tuesday.)

The company is continuing to roll out its X1 set-top box, which Cavanagh said now reaches 45 percent of subscribers. Comcast is looking to bundle those next-gen cable services with broadband to keep its customers happy, "knowing that there's lots of competition coming," he said.

Comcast sees X1 as a key component to keeping its subscribers engaged, and far away from its competitors. Cavanagh said the company has data that shows that ratings and engagement were higher for users who watched the Rio Olympics on X1, where the company combined all of NBC Olympics' linear and digital feeds in a special Rio Olympics hub, compared with those in non-X1 homes and non-Comcast homes. The integration pull "is significantly higher," he said.

He's found the same with Comcast's recent Netflix partnership, in which Netflix was added to X1 last month. "Customers like it," said Cavanagh, explaining that they appreciate not having to switch TV inputs to watch House of Cards. "That's the point. We've made a great investment in a platform that is very flexible … It's good for them; good for us."

While the X1 tech and product teams had been focusing on the Olympics and Netflix experiences this year, they're now exploring other integration options.

Those innovations, Comcast hopes, will fortify the company in the light of last week's DirecTV Now launch and Hulu's upcoming streaming bundle offerings.

"When it comes to responding to some of the new competition, it's very important how we can take what I just described in video and bundle it with the best broadband product out there," Cavanagh said.

"I'm not really worried," said Cavanagh, though he quickly added, "we'll be hustling to compete."

The company is also preparing to compete in a new space itself: wireless. Comcast hopes to have its wireless offering ready by the middle of next year, and is eager to "overcome some of the skepticism" about that company entering the wireless space, said Cavanagh.

"We've got 150 people working on" the wireless offering, which will target Comcast's existing customers, said Cavanagh. "It's going well, but we have work to do" to design the product they want. "We're in the learn and explore mode."

Cavanagh also touched on NBC's broadcast ratings success (the company is on track to reclaim the 18-49 crown this season), crediting "a well-thought-out, well-executed approach to dominating big nights." Out of 61 "big nights" through the year, with major TV events that draw a large audience, "we've got 70 percent of them," thanks to programs like the Olympics, Sunday and Thursday Night Football and the Golden Globes.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.
Publish date: December 7, 2016 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT