Comcast Grows Subscribers for First Time in 26 Quarters

Brian Roberts
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“What used to be called ‘reruns’ on television is now called Netflix.”

CEO Brian Roberts tells Wall Street analysts that the return to growth after six years of losses is owed to more innovative TV products and calls Xfinity a "game-changer."

After 26 quarters of losing video customers, Comcast "modestly" grew its TV customer base in the fourth quarter, CEO Brian Roberts said on Tuesday. Comcast stock spiked about 4 percent shortly after Roberts disclosed the fourth-quarter growth in video customers.

Speaking at the Citi Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference in Las Vegas, Roberts said the return to growth marks "the beginning of an exciting reversal of trends," and he attributed it to technological innovation.

The chief executive demonstrated the Xfinity X1 and upcoming X2 service, which puts TV content in the cloud, for the assembled Wall Street analysts. Among the new innovations is voice-activated remote control units, which he demonstrated by saying, "Show me movies about Las Vegas," which brought up a list of relevant movies in very short order. He also showed how TV content is sorted into categories, including one that is based on the shows that are trending most on Twitter.

In another demo he brought up a list of episodes of the show The Blacklist, with the ones already viewed by the customer checked off. In another segment he brought up available movies accompanied by their Rotten Tomatoes scores.

He called the improvements in Comcast's Xfinity TV service a "game-changer."

Roberts also said a new service rolled out in November that gives customers the option to rent or buy movies has been a smash success. Lionsgate, Universal and Fox are on board, and he said that over Thanksgiving, Comcast was the top digital seller of Fast & Furious 6, The Hunger Games and Despicable Me 2 because of the new service.

He also said Comcast has serviced 30 billion on-demand content orders in the past 10 years.

"That's a behavior -- it's a store. How do we sell you more things? We're not even scratching the surface. It's very exciting," he said.