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Comcast Chief ‘Optimistic’ About Tokyo Olympics Taking Place as Scheduled

Brian Roberts Comcast
Mark Lennihan/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Comcast chairman-CEO Brian Roberts expressed cautious optimism that the summer Olympics in Tokyo will proceed as scheduled despite growing fears that the coronavirus outbreak could force a postponement to the games set for July 24-Aug. 9.

“What I know is it’s full-steam ahead,” Roberts said Tuesday in a Q&A with analyst Ben Swinburne at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom conference in San Francisco. “I’m optimistic Olympics are going to happen. I’m looking forward to being there.”

NBCUniversal is heavily invested in Olympics rights through the 2032 games. If the Tokyo games are postponed, NBCU has insurance to mitigate the losses for the company, Roberts said.

Roberts noted that Universal Studios has been forced to shutter its theme park in Osaka, Japan for at least two weeks because of coronavirus concerns. He said that would probably mean an incremental 7% to 9% decline in revenue for the current quarter at NBCUniversal, depending on how long the park is closed.

In Beijing, however, where Universal is building another theme park, the work of some 13,000 builders and other staffers was halted in January for several weeks but has resumed. “We’re back working and we’re being encouraged to get going even faster,” Roberts said. The Universal Beijing Resort is expected to open on schedule in 2021, he added.

On the subject of parks, Roberts also talked up the expansion coming to Universal’s outposts in Orlando, Fla. The company plans to double the size of its footprint with the opening of the Epic Universe park in 2023.

Roberts also weighed in on NBCUniversal’s plans for the Peacock streaming platform launch, set for April 12. And he took the moment to note that the combined spending on content across Comcast and NBCUniversal is some $35 billion a year, when all forms of content (including carriage fees paid by Comcast Cable to outside programmers) are factored in.

2020 marks “an investment year” for the company on multiple fronts, from cable to NBCUniversal to Sky. “The momentum from 2019 is absolutely continuing. I’m excited we’re off to a fast start,” he said.

To the question of whether Comcast has enough scale to compete in the global content marketplace, Roberts did some quick math. Comcast has about 55 million customer relationships around the world (including Sky). That number grew by 1.5 million last year. Each of those customers represent about $100 a month in average revenue per user.

“That is 10 to 20 times what any of the streaming companies have in revenues,” Roberts noted.