NBCUniversal’s Steve Burke on What Gives Him More Headaches Than Netflix

At the Consumer Electronics Show, CEO also says last year’s decline in cable ratings surprised him

Online television alternatives like Netflix are clearly affecting ratings, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said on Thursday. But they’re not the biggest thorn in his side.

DVRs are.

“Netflix has created a wonderful business and a great delivery mechanism, they’re obviously affecting ratings,” Burke said at a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But, he added, “DVRs and time-shifted viewing are more impactful.”

Burke was also surprised last year by the degree to which online options eroded cable ratings. “I thought that … cable entertainment ratings were going to be stronger than they are,” he said. “Cable entertainment ratings are weaker than they were just two or three years ago.”

As alternatives like Netflix collectively provide audiences with access to more television than ever before, reruns struggle to attract viewers when so many other choices are at their fingertips.

But even while NBCUniversal has struggled to find traction for its existing video online, Burke has pushed the company to invest in digital properties, hoping its online know-how and popularity will help the traditional content find bigger audiences. In August, the company invested $200 million each in online news publishers Vox and BuzzFeed.