Comcast interested in content, cable systems

But major entertainment acquisition unlikely says COO

NEW YORK -- Cable giant Comcast Corp. is interested in content and cable systems acquisitions, but a play for an entertainment biggie is unlikely, COO Stephen Burke signaled Wednesday.

Some on Wall Street have recently wondered if Comcast could once again go on the hunt for a major entertainment deal like when it made a surprise bid for Walt Disney a few years ago. However, the executive shrugged off the likelihood of another Comcast run at Disney without using the company's name.

Speaking at the Bank of America -- Merrill Lynch Securities Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Marina Del Rey, Calif., Burke said "content and distribution work well together," pointing to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.'s use of BSkyB and John Malone's Liberty Media's asset mix as examples. "There are a lot of case really can create a lot of value by putting content and distribution together," especially if it is cable network content, he said.

Particularly given that cable networks have been among the best businesses in the media and entertainment space in the recession due to their dual revenue streams, it would be wrong not to get bigger in the networks space if a deal that makes financial sense was possible.

"If the opportunity came about...I think we'd do it," Burke said.

However, he immediately added that he doesn't expect a $50 billion acquisition. Disney's market cap as of the market close on Tuesday stood at $49 billion.

Burke also said after the recent elimination of an FCC ownership cap that restricted a cable company from controlling more than 30% of U.S. homes, Comcast remains open to buying more cable systems, but feels no increased urge.

"We'd like to get bigger in cable if the economics were right," he said. But "we don't wake up every day thinking how do we get bigger in cable."

Burke also said Wednesday that Comcast has seen cable systems advertising trends improve some in recent months.

"There is some ground for optimism," he said. "There are signs that the big car companies are starting to spend a little bit more now."

It is "too early to say eureka," he argued, "but it certainly is better than it was."