Comcast CEO on Cable Bundles: "You Can't Keep Raising the Price Forever"

Brian Roberts Comcast CEO - H 2014
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

"These things have a way of correcting and balancing out before something draconian happens," he said.

"You can't keep raising the price forever," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said about the cable bundle on Wednesday. 

The cable network's business has been under a microscope for more than a month since Walt Disney, Viacom and others warned of slower growth. As a cable provider, Comcast has been dealing with the prospect of skinnier bundles, whereby consumers save money by buying smaller packages of channels.

"You're seeing that tension rise," said Roberts at the Goldman Sachs 24th Annual Communacopia Conference, noting that the high cost for content is leading to higher prices for consumers.

"These things have a way of correcting and balancing out before something draconian happens," he said, noting that Comcast isn't losing video customers as quickly as it had been.

"We had the best second quarter in nine years. It still was a loss, so we're not declaring victory," he said of the cable TV business.

Comcast has managed to discourage churn with improvements in the product, like with the "talking remote," a high-tech remote control that the company is sending out to its customers at the rate of 70,000 per week.

Even with over-the-top competition from Netflix and Roberts thinks, "Video over the Internet is more friend than foe," because Comcast not only supplies content to those competitors but also sells the necessary broadband access to the consumers.

Comcast has also been closing the "entitlement gap," whereby NBC had been getting less for advertising and in retransmission fees than CBS was getting, Roberts said. When Comcast bought NBCU, the flagship network was in first place in ratings and now it is in first place in the 18-49 demographic.

On the film front, Roberts noted the conglomerate is in the midst of "the best year in the history of Universal — maybe the best year in the history of Hollywood," giving much of the credit to improvements in marketing.

That success, of course, will make financial comparisons down the road a bit tough, he acknowledged.
"We're hoping that we're cruising at a new altitude. We may not be able to replicate 2015 so quickly. These things have ups and downs," said Roberts.
"We believe that our symphony approach to marketing is unique. It goes across all parts of the company," he said. "So when we launched Minions this summer, if you're watching the Golf Channel the Minions are popping up two weeks before the movie opens."
Switching gears, he recalled that there were skeptics about theme parks when Comcast purchased NBCU, but the business is booming with new hotels and attractions based on King Kong, Harry Potter and other franchises. 

"We came in very leery, and we are right now very bullish," Roberts told the Wall Street analysts who attended the conference. "The whole category is rising and we see worldwide opportunities."