Comcast in 'Sweet Spot' as It Unveils Xfinity: CEO
Special to CNBC.com
Comcast is in the "sweet spot" of technology as it unveils a cloud-based cable broadband service that is faster and more extensive, Chief Executive Brian Roberts told CNBC Thursday.
What Comcast is doing with Xfinity is "taking most of the brains and the functionality out of the cable box and putting it into the cloud," he said during an interview at the annual Cable Show in Chicago.
"It’s not cloud storage as much as it is cloud computing" that provides more content, faster and over more platforms including television, computers and telephones, he added. That means being able to watch television and surf the Internet from anywhere in the house or download programs on the road through a laptop, tablet or phone.
Xfinity is currently being rolled out in Augusta, Ga., while it is being tested in 10 different markets. "I have it in my house in Philadelphia," Roberts said. The rest of Comcast's markets will have it "probably toward the end of the year."
At the cable show Comcast also planned to demonstrate faster broadband that puts "over a billion bits a second of speeds running real time on a cable system."
The plan is to download the entire fifth season of NBC program "30 Rock" in 90 seconds.
"This could’ve taken many minutes, maybe an hour on some of the older technologies," Roberts said. "It wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago."
Comcast has taken full advantage of the wealth of content provided by its 60 percent ownership of NBC Universal, parent of CNBC.
"Not too many people have changed the way they get their television but are adding to it," Roberts said. "It’s all the new ways you can consume on other devices, and we want to be relevant in that space as well."
Comcast has been able to invest in its cable infrastructure to support these faster speeds thanks to strong growth in advertising sales and increased free cash flow every quarter over the past four years, Roberts said.
In addition, "We didn’t have to go out and put in new fibre optics. We made that investment over the last decade and they’re really starting to pay dividends as it's mostly software upgrades, not having to go back and rewire all your streets and your homes," he said.
Roberts said the economy is more of a worry than the competition Comcast faces for eyeballs.
"It's a really important thing to get the economy moving again," he said. "We’ve made some good strides from where we were a couple of years ago to where we are today as a country. It’s encouraging but there’s a lot of turmoil and unrest in the markets. That steady progress, getting people back to work, that’s the number one thing that will accelerate our company. "