Video services

Comcast Bits

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) CFO Michael Angelakis held court this morning in Palm Beach, Fla., at the Bear Stearns & Co. Inc. Media Conference. He didn't drop any news that would shake up the cable industry, but here are a few tidbits and takeaways:

  • Comcast, he said, should be able to get back about 50 channels, or about 300 MHz worth of spectrum, for other uses via its "all-digital" strategy (actually "mostly-digital" is a more apropos descriptor, considering Comcast will continue to offer about 30 channels in analog). Still, what it gets back with that strategy (involving as much as 20 percent of its footprint by year's end) would give the MSO enough capacity to hold in the range of 150 to 200 linear high-definition television channels. While that would give Comcast plenty of headroom to compete with DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV)'s tonnage strategy and what Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) expects to offer this year, don't expect Comcast to use all that spectrum only for hi-def. It's also looking for spare channels to fuel its plans for Docsis 3.0. And it's still sticking to its HD "choices" mantra -- giving numbers that factor in both hi-def linear channels and movies, TV shows, and other fare offered via the video-on-demand (VOD) platform. "We will put more content on both aspects of our platform," Angelakis said.

  • Angelakis also offered some color on Comcast's new Internet service tiering strategy, led on the high-end by "Blast!" (16 Mbit/s downstream), and a "lite tier" (768 kbit/s down and 384 kbit/s upstream) that sells for $24.95 per month, targeted to cost-conscious dial-up Internet users and DSL converts. Comcast has reached 10 percent penetration with Blast in one undisclosed market that has offered the speedier tier for some time, he said. Comcast launched Blast in the Bay Area last month, so that's definitely not it. (See Comcast Has a 'Blast!' in the Bay .) Expect Comcast to use both of those tiers to help offset slowing growth in the high-speed Internet service category. (See Broadband Grows… but Slows .) Angelakis admits that the growth trajectory "will level off a bit… but we're continuing to grow that business. There's a lot of legs left in terms of growth."

  • And what about wireless -- cable's "big unknown"? Angelakis refused to spill the beans on anything specific, stressing that Comcast isn't much interested in a "quad-play" voice product. So feel free to punch another nail into the coffin of the "Pivot" joint venture with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S). (See Sprint Halts 'Pivot' Expansion.) Angelakis said Comcast is more inclined to pursue a wireless strategy that adds mobility to its existing bundle of voice, video, and Internet services, rather than just a "me-too" mobile phone offering.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Docsis 3.0 Strategies: From Product Development to Service Deployment, a conference that will take a comprehensive look at the cable industry's plans to roll out its next-generation architecture around the world. To be staged in Denver, March 19, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

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