Deal extends cable giant's reach into wireless services

Comcast execs Monday called their multi-billion dollar pact with Verizon inked late last week a transformative event in some ways on the scale of acquiring of NBCUniversal.

“Talk about content, you got NBC. And wireless, you got this. In perpetuity,” said chief financial officer Michael Angelakis. “This is a deal forever. We don’t have to invest in building a wireless network. We aren’t going to acquire a wireless network. It’s quite a significant transaction,” he told investors at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference.

The Comcast presentation was added late last week to a packed roster and drew the expected crowd. A UBS rep said about 2,000 were registered for the annual event.

Time Warner Cable also presented a few days after the nation’s two largest cable companies along with smaller player Bright House Networks sold wireless spectrum to Verizon for $3.6 billion. The cable and telco companies will market each other’s products and services and collaborate on new technology.

Of course in dollar terms there’s a vast difference — the NBCUniversal deal was valued at about $30 billion. But the strategic significance of the Verizon deal can’t be overstated, execs said.

Besides at last ushering in the era of the quadruple play — video, high-speed internet, landline and cell phone — Comcast and Verizon will put their heads together “and figure out the best way to integrate wireless, broadband, Internet,” said Comcast Cable prexy Neil Smit. “Watching a video on your wireless devices, then resuming it in your home. Great new devices with your Comcast (subscription), great new innovations…will come out of that side of the deal.”

It may take up to a year for regulators to approve the sale of the spectrum licenses.

In addition to touting the benefits of the Verizon pact, Angelakis offered an update on Comcast’s view of its NBCUniversal acquisition as the deal approaches the one-year anniversary of its closing next month.

“Now we have run the (NBCU) for pretty much 10 months,” he said. “There’s been lots of change, lots of activity. It’s gone really well, gone according to plan,” noted Angelakis. He said he’s enthusiastic about the biz — especially theme parks — and the exec team in place.

But clearly, they’d all be a lot happier if NBC wasn’t last among the top four broadcasters.

The NBC network and Telemundo — a distant second to rival Spanish-lingo broadcaster Univision — “are challenges for us. (But) I think we’re investing at level where we can invest in success,” he said. That includes original programming on the cable and broadcast side.

Winning FIFA rights — two World Cups and hundreds of soccer matches — he said, is a “game changer” for Telemundo. Locking up Olympics rights through the 2020 games also solidifies NBC’s hold on a key franchise.

“NBCUniversal, from an advertising standpoint, is holding up very well. They have a big first quarter with the Super Bowl coming up (and the summer) Olympics. So NBC overall is feeling pretty good about advertising coming up,” he said.

As for Universal: “The film business is a hit driven business, we understand that,” he said.

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