Comcast CEO (again) rules out NBC move to cable


How many times does he have to say it? Yet again at this week’s Citi media conference in New York Comcast CEO Brian Roberts was asked if he will convert the NBC Television Network to a cable channel after buying control of NBC Universal. And once again he said no.

It was just a month ago that Roberts explained to a UBS investor conference why it made no sense to convert NBC into a cable network. And that wasn’t even the first time he’d committed Comcast to maintaining the broadcast network and its affiliate system.

But someone asked yet again at the Citi conference whether Comcast would look to make NBC into a cable channel to focus on getting subscription fees from cable MSOs (of which Comcast itself is the largest).

Roberts repeated, yet again, that Comcast is committed to the broadcast network business model. “We will continue to broadcast as long as others are, and we will continue to grow the affiliate fee model,” he explained.

RBR-TVBR observation: The only people who think that dropping the affiliate system and taking an established broadcast network to cable is a good idea are a few Wall Street analysts who don’t understand the business they’re supposed to by analyzing. The bottom line: Brian Roberts is not an idiot, so he is not going to do something so stupid.

NBC Universal already owns the #1 cable network, USA. But even with the suffering programming lineup that has dropped it to #4 among the big four broadcast network, NBC still has way, way more viewers than USA and way, way more ad revenues than USA.

Suppose that Brian Roberts really was as stupid as those Wall Street analysts and decided to make NBC a cable channel. Not only would it no longer have the audience draw of its local affiliates and their valuable local news products (as show by their resiliency even with “The Jay Leno Show” as the lead-in to late news), but the value of the NBC Local Media O&O TV stations would instantly drop dramatically because they would no longer have network programming in primetime. Also, the NBC cable channel would have to come up with lots of new programming to fill the time slots now occupied by local news and syndicated fare.

What a brilliant business plan! Lower ratings, lower revenues, lower asset value – but maybe, just maybe, the fees from MSOs would be greater than the retrans fees NBC is going to get from its broadcasting operations. No, Brian Roberts is not an idiot, so he will not follow that course.