AAAA Conference 2010

At 4A's, Comcast COO Quashes Rumors of NBC Move to Cable

In Talk With Medialink CEO Michael Kassan, Steve Burke Emphasizes Synergies, Easier Media Buys

By Published on .

SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Steve Burke, Comcast's chief operating officer and soon-to-be CEO of NBC Universal under its new majority owner, sat down with Medialink Chairman-CEO Michael Kassan at the 4A's today to talk a bit about what NBC will look like under the cable operator, and how the combined entity will be more advertiser-friendly.

Steve Burke
Steve Burke Credit: Kipp Cheng
In December, Comcast struck a deal for a 51% stake in NBC Universal, which if approved by regulators will create a media company valued at $43.5 billion, according to Ad Age estimates of the companies' 2008 revenue. The goal is to "give people the chance to see anything they want and to watch it anywhere they want," said Mr. Burke. "Take all those technologies and all that content and make it real."

Mr. Burke firmly quashed rumors that Comcast will transform the broadcast network into a cable outlet -- NBCU execs had bandied about that prospect leading up to the deal's close in December. "That's an idea that sounds good, but it's almost unthinkable to try to do that," he said. "We are committed to the broadcast model."

Instead, the plan is to focus on each business' strength and how they sync up with one another. Prime example: NBC's content will dovetail nicely with Comcast's video-on-demand platform. "Now, more than ever, it makes sense to have content and distribution together," Mr. Burke said. That also means taking that content online. Comcast will add NBC's more than 30% stake in Hulu to Fancast, its existing TV web portal.

The cable operator has no plans to interfere with NBC Universal's foothold in content creation, and that includes staying out of the movie-making process. "We don't need to lend any expertise or knowledge to picking movies or deciding which scripts to buy," he said. Comcast, however, can jump in to address Universal's disappearing revenue stream from DVD sales. Once movies come out of theaters -- Mr. Burke says 2009 was a record year for box offices, so that business is healthy -- that's where Comcast can maximize revenue.

"What's the next revenue stream to replace DVDs?" he said. "It's got to be electronic selling, through digital or video on demand."

As for marketers and agencies, they'll benefit from easier media buys across all Comcast NBC properties, Mr. Burke maintains. "We're going to make the job of buying advertising simpler," he said, citing the ability to reach women, for example, with the combined company properties like Bravo, Oxygen, DailyCandy and iVillage, can happen all in one house.

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