In his Q&A at Goldman Sach's Communacopia conference, Michael Angelakis, Comcast's (NSDQ: CMCSA) CFO, projected confidence about this past week's market turmoil and how the MSO is prepared to handle the softening economy. "We are not immune from credit and financial markets. But we are resilient and can take body blows. We are worried about growth and how we can take advantage of opportunities that still exist. It's more than a scary world out there and we're trying to manage, though the marketplace looks somber."
-- Wireless broadband prospects: First, we have to get the WiMax joint venture formed, Angelakis said. Comcast, along with other companies like *Time Warner* Cable, Bright House Networks, Intel (NSDQ: INTC) and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) have invested in the *Sprint* Nextel and Clearwire (NSDQ: CLWR) project to deliver 4G wireless service. "When that happens, $3.2 billion of cash will start flowing. And if the partners can agree and execute on the business plan, it will all work out nicely."
-- Content and distribution: Do the two belong together? And what's the advantage of having content creation and distribution streams? Angelakis: "I don't look at it as an 'either/or' situation. I look at channels. We have 300 million videos watched on our system every month. So it makes sense that we're looking at cross-platform initiatives. Whether it's online platform, linear or VOD, it all works together. We will look at everything. We looked at buying some content distributors, but the valuations weren't right. But we'll continue to look."
-- Acquisition strategy: Over the past year and a half, Comcast has bought a variety of companies, including movie tickets/info site Fandango, professional social net Plaxo and women's fashion and entertainment guide Daily Candy. Asked how those all fit together and how Comcast's acquisition plans are formed, Angelakis explained, "We have several revenue streams. Any acquisition has to pass through several strategic filters. There are certain acquisitions that have higher hurdles and risk. We're continuing to look at where we can add value." As for which revenue streams are higher up the chain in terms of considering what to acquire, Angelakis said Comcast's view is more "transaction-specific" as opposed to looking at a top-down list of holes to fill. "We are a large cable operator and going by FCC regulations, we can't get a lot larger. We're looking at build versus buy and what makes sense." In terms of particular categories, Comcast is big on sports because of the various branding opportunities that go along with it. Meanwhile, Angelakis said last month's purchase of Daily Candy makes sense because of its local ties. Plus, Daily Candy adds to Comcast's entertainment and lifestyle offerings, therefore broadening the company's appeal to advertisers. Similarly, he said that Plaxo is more cross-platform oriented and also affords another offering to marketers.
-- HD channels: how many is too many?: "Once you have 50 channels, there's a diminishing return the more you have. It becomes more of a marketing ploy at that point. I don;t think people care about watching CSPAN in HD. We will continue to add more linear channels, but we're bullish on HD." Webcast
By David Kaplan