Brian Roberts’ Regret: Didn’t Go For Content Early Enough

A couple of decades ago, John Hendricks offered Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) serious equity in the new Discovery channel. The cable operator said no — and has spent much of the past few years trying to make up for the failure to recognize how important a stake in content would be to distributors. “Comcast would have been a very different company today had we done that 20 years ago,” Brian Roberts told interviewer Peter Chernin (yes, you read that right) during an event designed to “introduce” the would-be entertainment mogul to Hollywood.

Hollywood vet Chernin has a particularly unusual perspective: the former COO of News Corp (NYSE: NWS). was a Comcast consultant when the company was putting together the pending deal with GE for control of NBC Universal (NYSE: GE). The content response was to a question about his biggest disappointments. “Success is seductive,” Chernin said, “but most people really learn from their failures and their shortcomings.” “We didn’t rehearse that one,” Roberts replied, a little nonplussed. His first answer? “We didn’t pick up on content early enough.”

Later Roberts brought up some advice Chernin gave him during due diligence: “Don’t do this deal if you can