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3/4/2011 9:32:19 AM
FiberSlasher Member #: 4750 Registered: 1996-2001
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Comcast's Roberts aims to make the cable box cool,


Comcast's Roberts aims to make the cable box cool, take on Netflix

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts is on a tour of sorts with a common message: Your cable box and the guide that goes with it can be cool. In fact, this lowly cable box may even remain the hub of your living room as it plays nice with Android and Apple’s iPad.

Add it up and Comcast is gunning for Netflix.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications powwow, Roberts was on the stump talking about Xfinity and the interplay between cable, TV Everywhere, apps and controlling content. It’s a pitch Roberts is delivering a few places. He will also appear on Bloomberg TV talking about the topic.

At the core of Comcast’s master plan is its guide. Cable companies have been terrible with their guides as competition like Netflix has surged due to a better user interface. Roberts is looking to right those mistakes.

Roberts talk at the Morgan Stanley conference focused on that last foot between you and your TV. In a demo, Roberts said:

Let’s switch now to the screen and you can start here, this is a regular iPad. It’s authenticated once. So it knows that it is Philadelphia cable customer — this is our head of investor, Marlene’s, cable. So if I picked a channel — let’s pick CNN — if I click it, it will say at the top — and it depends what network you’re on — this is running on WiFi in the hotel so hopefully it will be pretty good. But that’s another thing that came together, which is WiFi in all of our homes. We’re now putting WiFi in every new cable modem we put out there.

So the last foot, in my opinion, wants to be wireless with the latest and greatest device. But you need a wireless connection to get the best broadband experience. And that is what we offer in people’s homes.

Roberts talked up the guide to Comcast’s on-demand offering. The plan is to allow you to access a huge content library from anywhere—as long as your cable bill is in good standing. Roberts is clearly trying to position Comcast as a technology leader—even if Comcast may be early or fumble at first.

The same thing happened with On Demand. The technology pulls you, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes willingly. And eventually, if the consumer loves it, they’re going to pay for it. And we’re going to find a way to resolve that conversation. So let me give you a couple of stats of On Demand. We have done 18 billion On-Demand views from our cable customers in — that is more than all of iTunes combined.

Roberts said all Comcast lacked was a “great navigation device.” The iPad combined with better software is Comcast’s tool of choice. In the long run, Roberts said that Comcast may pursue bundling deals with smart TVs and devices like the Xbox. The cable box may be a little more hip, but Roberts could go around it if needed.

Sound familiar? Comcast is sounding a lot like Netflix. Roberts reiterated that message on Bloomberg Television’s Bloomberg West show.

He said:

What we have successfully done is created a user interface that is every bit as good [as Netflix]. It will get better over time. We now have more content. We spend $7.5 billion a year procuring content, so we should be able to have those kind of rights, both library rights, and more importantly, live here and now rights and I think you will see a lot of innovation this year from Comcast.

Here’s the preview of the show:

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