Comcast Cable Chief Talks Sub Trends, Streampix

On visits from his corporate superiors at Comcast
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"I dress the place up to look like a movie studio. I bring all the Winnebagos to the front; I have people pushing sets around, like one of those old Cecil B. DeMille movies. So they come for two days every two, three months, and we look like we're a bustling metropolis, and then we go back to being a regular old business."

Neil Smit said the new streaming video service, which offers older films and TV series like Netflix, gives customers "no reason to go anywhere else."

NEW YORK - Comcast Cable chief Neil Smit told an investor conference Wednesday that the cable giant's improved fourth-quarter video subscriber trends were mainly driven by improved customer service and retention and he feels the trend is sustainable.

The company lost only 17,000 video users in the fourth quarter, compared with 135,000 in the year-ago period, leading some analysts to predict the company could add subscribers in the first quarter of 2012 for the first time in a long time.

Asked at the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference if there is any full year that investors could mark that will see no sub losses, Smit said: "I'd love to circle a year, but we're just going to keep doing what's right for the business." Overall, he said: "We feel good about the execution and the team and what we are doing."

Smit was also asked about the Streampix streaming video service that Comcast unveiled recently to offer more older film and TV content, an area where Netflix has been strong. "It is a great complementary service," the Comcast Cable chief said. The company wanted to "give customers no reason to go anywhere else."

He also once again touted the strength of cable operators' broadband service, saying he doesn't see why broadband penetration couldn't eventually go as high as video penetration.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai