Comcast CEO: We Have Fewer Subscribers Than Netflix, Even After Time Warner Deal

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Time Warner
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Despite subscriber count, Comcast still posted revenue of $5.18 billion in Q1, nearly five times that of Netflix

Comcast continues to paint Netflix as a competitor, as the cable giant keeps trying to make the case that it needs to swallow Time Warner Cable to have a presence on a national scale — and compete with what it portrays as surging digital-video rivals.

Comcast chairman-CEO Brian Roberts, speaking on a panel at the Cable Show, said that with the TW Cable acquisition and subsequent spinoff of systems to Charter Communications, Comcast will add a net 7 million customers. That would give Comcast about 30 million video subscribers — and Roberts noted that Netflix now has more than 35 million U.S. subscribers.

The merger will give “the industry a better opportunity to have a footprint regionally and hopefully nationally,” Roberts said.

In reality, Comcast and Netflix aren’t really directly competitive: They offer different kinds of content, and Netflix is not a replacement for the broad programming available on pay TV. Comcast does offer a Netflix-like streaming service, Streampix, but that’s bundled with TV and has a much smaller content lineup.

In addition, Comcast’s video biz is far larger in dollar terms. Comcast posted $5.18 billion in video revenue for the first quarter of 2014, whereas Netflix generated $1.27 billion.

SEE ALSO: Comcast, Time Warner Cable Defend Union as Benefiting ‘Millions’ in FCC Filing

That hasn’t stopped Comcast from describing Netflix and others as looming threats to its pay-TV business. In its public-interest filing last month with the FCC, the MSO cited Netflix, Google’s YouTube, Apple iTunes and Amazon, which currently offers a streaming video service and just announced the Fire TV set-top as potential rivals.

“In the evolving video marketplace in which these companies have thrived, there is no reason why a cable company should be limited in evolving as well, especially one that has time and again demonstrated its willingness to meet and enhance competition through innovation and investment,” Comcast, together with Time Warner Cable, said in the FCC filing. “Added scale will make that innovation go faster and that investment go farther.”

With the explosion of video-capable devices, Comcast has accelerated its technology development to deliver more TV content to more screens, Roberts said. The operator now streams more than 50 live channels to devices outside the home and offers 25,000 video-on-demand choices on multiple platforms. “We couldn’t do that 24 months ago, or even 12 months ago,” he said.

Meanwhile, Comcast and Netflix have sparred in the public-policy arena, engaging in a war of words about fees the MSO is charging for higher-speed to deliver access to Internet video.

Netflix — reluctantly, it says — inked an agreement with Comcast in February, under which Netflix is paying for guaranteed access to bandwidth to the operator’s broadband customers. Netflix CEO and founder Reed Hastings has complained that big ISPs are extracting a “toll” from Netflix because they have leverage in the market, and the streaming-video company is opposing Comcast’s takeover bid for Time Warner Cable, saying the resulting entity would give it unprecedented control over broadband.

Comcast has responded that Netflix is seeking to “shift costs that it has always borne to all users of the Internet and not just to Netflix customers,” and that its interconnection deal with Netflix is no different from similar agreements that it has with many other companies.

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  1. Dave K says:

    Wow, Comcast, I’ll sure cry you a river!

  2. Jym Segneri says:

    This is NOT a ‘Variety’ article; this is a PRESS RELEASE and this “reporter”‘ and ‘Variety” ought to be ashamed. Either put the screws to Comcast and report back to companies like this that they are our burden and they’d be wise to re-read our Constitution and commence accordingly, or just cease and desist printing this compost for us to have to put up with. FYI, that tiny amount of money Comcast paid you to print this is money they stole from us… do you even read this ‘”stuff’? did you see their “profits”? THAT IS NOT PROFIT and i am sick of being cheated and manipulated and flat out lied to on EVERY monthly bill to the point i can barely afford a haircut and I’m screwed should i get a flat tire or ANYTHING as commonplace as that was to happen; and now I’m FORCED by my government to pay $200+ every month with this “affordable health care FOR INSURERS law” (or i can not, and be “the new criminal element”)… but back to the media… YOU were who we used to root for! YOU are to be getting “the scoop” and alerting us to things like the “return of Ma Bell”… not wait until the company hands the story to you… by then it’s extra difficult to get the real picture and correct what needs correcting; businesses LIE 100 times worse than man, because businesses don’t exist (no matter what the supreme sell-outs manipulate in their judgements); businesses are entities… i,e, no soul.
    …so I just now realized I’ve wasted my breath and digit dexterity for nearly the last 10 minutes (you’re a business, as I whisper to myself); oops! sorry; my bad; thank you; good day and may you all have a Happy Mother’s Day (i think i can afford to make my mother a pie… and water; I’ll be bringing her pie and water. she’s so proud. Rock on).

  3. Brian says:

    Comcast playing the role of the underdog? LOL.

    The Highwayman of companies positioning itself to be at every possible juncture to squeeze every possible dollar out of every possible entity is the underdog. Comcast should be in the cannabis business. One wonderful hallucination.

  4. Dee says:

    Boo hoo, Comcast. Looking for more favorable treatment? Why not make money the old-fashioned way? EARN IT.

  5. geri031706 says:

    If it’s such a small company, then why oh why does Comcast has such horrible customer service?

  6. Steve says:

    Comcast may have less subs, but each of their subs pays on average 10x more $ per month. Don’t cry for those jerks.

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