Cabler to focus on subscriber retention

First you had cord cutting. Now cord shaving has been introduced into the lexicon of the media biz.

So instead of the theory that people are dropping pay TV subscriptions outright, the latest is that customers are paring back on services in their packages.

On Tuesday, Comcast Cable President Neil Smit said he is seeing no more evidence of cord shaving as he is of cord cutting.

As a keynote speaker at UBS’ annual media conference in New York, Smit said, in fact, the revenues they are getting per TV subscriber rose 5.5 percent in the past quarter.

That said, Smit emphasized he is spending a lot more time on subscriber retention, including overseeing new marketing campaigns. He added that Comcast has no plans to offer a less expensive package, as other providers have, for customers on tight budgets, even though the operator has lost TV subs in the past two quarters.

For the past year, Comcast has offered a digital economy package of 50 standard def and 25 high def channels that starts at $39.99 a month.

On pricing overall, Comcast won’t implement “any dramatic change in pricing going forward,” Smit said.

Smit showed a new remote control app introduced recently for the iPad and said subscribers would soon be able to watch TV shows directly on the app starting in a few weeks with programming from premium channels like HBO and Showtime. Since its introduction a few weeks ago, the app has been downloaded 350,000 times, Smit said.

He dodged a question about whether Comcast would have to pay content providers more to be able to stream shows on its iPad app. “It’s just another outlet,” Smit said. “That’s how we view it now.”

On the increasingly hot topic of usage-based pricing for broadband, Smit said Comcast had no plans now to put in place metered pricing. He said only about 1 percent of its broadband subs ever exceed the 250GB cap Comcast has in place.

On the merger with NBC Universal, Smit said the combo could have a real advantage. “Instead of banging our heads together once a year as we do now (with content providers,” he said, “we can do more tests and learn (from each other) and drive more innovation.”

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