Comcast Corp. chief operating officer Steve Burke renewed his pledge to support NBC as a broadcast property and expressed confidence in the television advertising marketplace during an on-stage interview Tuesday at the 4A’s Leadership and Media conference in San Francisco.
Burke, who will serve as chairman of the entertainment entity that will arise upon completion of Comcast’s $30 billion acquisition of NBC Universal, told the 4A’s crowd that the first order of business since the deal was announced has been to familiarize himself with the NBCU brass.
“I’ve had breakfast, lunch and dinner with the top 20 people at NBCU,” Burke said, adding that the combined company will have myriad synergies to tap. As such, “firing a bunch of people” is not on his to-do list.
“That’s not what this is about,” he said. “This is about putting distribution and content together. The whole idea of this deal was not to change the world but do what makes good business sense.”
Burke did acknowledge that once the “discovery” period is over Comcast will have its work cut out for it, in terms of identifying the “major opportunities.” Dismantling NBC’s existing business model won’t be part of the agenda, said Burke, adding that he is encouraged by the recovery of the advertising market and the strength of big-tent programming like the just-concluded Winter Olympics.
Transforming NBC into a cable concern is an “impossibility, even if we wanted to, and we don’t want to,” Burke said. “We’re committed to the broadcast model.”
That model will be an important content engine for Comcast going forward. Burke also stressed the importance the TV Everywhere initiative, which allows subscribers to access live content across various digital platforms.
“You want to get that content out to where people want to consume it,” Burke said. “Companies that don’t do it will be sorry.”
Burke was interviewed on stage by Michael Kassan, chairman and CEO of MediaLink, who posed questions ranging from Comcast’s relationship with NBCU to what should be done about the Peacock’s recently vacated 10 p.m. slot. Burke was cautious on that front. “We’re trying to figure out the realities of television,” he said, before moving on to the next question.
Burke did weigh in on advertising though and expressed support for interactive advertising initiative Canoe, which has been held up by infrastructure issues. The Comcast COO said that Canoe is “on the cusp” of delivering on the long-delayed promises of interactive ad sales, and that it continues to be well supported by its six MSO partners.
The resurgence in TV advertising, made more affordable and attractive by technology, was at the core of Comcast’s wager on NBCU, Burke said. “TV remains the best way to convince someone to do something.”
—with additional reporting by Anthony Crupi