Comcast casts votes

Chair-CEO Roberts wins easy board re-election

NEW YORK — Comcast chair-CEO Brian Roberts was overwhelmingly re-elected to another board term at Wednesday’s annual shareholders meeting in Philadelphia.

Roberts won 98% of the vote, while his father — Comcast founder and board member Ralph Roberts — won 98.4% of the ballots cast by shareholders. All other directors, including new additions Joseph Collins and Edward Breen, were similarly swept into office.

More than 83% of those voting handed Brian Roberts another easy victory in defeating a shareholder proposal that would have weakened his control of one-third of all votes at annual meetings. A similar measure failed at the 2004 meeting.

But Roberts didn’t escape the meeting unscathed. A small cadre of union reps blasted him over contract demands. They complained that Comcast workers earn 40% less than their counterparts at other companies.

Roberts countered by saying Comcast was a good place to work, but said he couldn’t discuss specifics of contract negotiations.

He was briefing shareholders on Comcast’s growth plan, and the headline of the meeting wasn’t even cable TV — it was Internet phone service. Roberts told shareholders that digital phone service could generate enormous profits for the country’s largest cable company. Comcast plans to offer its Digital Voice service in 20 markets by the end of this year, in all markets by the end of next.

Roberts also plugged the expansion of Comcast’s high-def TV service over the next five years.

Separately, Comcast’s Outdoor Life Network said Wednesday it has secured syndie rights to Mark Burnett’s “Survivor” and that the deal could transform the cable net. Financial terms were not disclosed.

During a conference call with OLN prexy Gavin Harvey, Burnett said it was an “incredible windfall” and that the deal includes seasons one through 10, all of which have completed production. OLN has the option of acquiring upcoming seasons 11 and 12.

Comcast shares closed down 63¢, or 1.96%, at $31.57 Wednesday.

(Wire services contributed to this report.)

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