More people may be watching online video than ever, but Comcast doesn’t see initiatives like Google TV as a competitive threat, according to Steve Burke, the cable company’s COO. In an interview at the D8 conference today, the cable exec said that Comcast’s real competition comes from satellite TV providers and telco companies entering the pay TV market.
After Comcast merges its cable networks with NBC Universal, Burke will be the guy running the combined entity. So his view of the competitive marketplace — particularly around the cable company’s competition with online video services — is important, especially in light of NBC’s stake in online video site Hulu. Hulu could launch its own subscription services soon, so some could see its on-demand programming as competitive with Comcast’s pay TV services. But Burke dismissed that notion.
“Our real competitors are the satellite companies and the telephone companies at this moment,” Burke said. “To really deliver right now the massive quantity of video — most of our customers have 200 channels, and each one of those channels, 24 hours a day we are delivering video. You really need the infrastructure.”
While Burke acknowledged that the Internet could be used for video delivery, it wasn’t ready for the pure tonnage of video content that facilities-based providers could provide. Perhaps more importantly, it’s the content that will drive user adoption, he implied. Right now, most folks can get full-length TV shows from Hulu or CBS’ TV.com. But if someone wants access to a premium cable channel like an ESPN or USA, they’re going to need to sign up for cable — something that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
“There are a lot of companies that want to get to the TV set, to bring the Internet to the TV set, to deliver search to the TV set, and I think all of those companies can be complementary with what we’re doing,” Burke said. “But by and large the people that subscribe to our video service do so because they want ESPN, USA, CNBC.”
At the same time, Burke dismissed the idea that consumers were choosing to get rid of their pay TV services and rely on online video to deliver their entertainment instead. “Quarter by quarter, year by year, the number of people subscribing to what we call multichannel video — whether it be satellite, telco or cable — if you add those up, it has grown every quarter. It’s never gone down. So I think there’s very little evidence that people are giving up their subscription television,” Burke said.
While he sees video consumption growing and expanding to other devices — like the iPad, Android mobile devices or even Google TV — Burke doesn’t expect that those services will overtake the traditional pay TV services offered by Comcast and other cable providers. Instead, he said those services will remain complementary to what pay TV providers offer.
“It’s likely to be more devices, more things in more devices, but at the end of the day, it’s clearly in a program company’s interests to have a cable company or a satellite company or a telephone company paying them affiliate fees for their programming,” he said.
You can watch the full (unembeddable) video here.
Photo courtesy of Asa Mathat, All Things Digital
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