Comcast/NBCU Conference Call: Vague Ideas, In Real-Time

Brian Roberts on potential synergies, layoffs, future of Hulu.

Last Updated: December 3, 2009 @ 11:38 AM

Some more notes from Thursday’s Comcast/NBCU media conference call (which, by the way, was marred by some technical difficulties that delayed the festivities for more than a few minutes).

The call was short on concrete ideas, long on vague synergies, with executives from both parties stressing they will have a lot of time to figure out a specific plan while the Department of Justice and FTC scrutinize the proposed deal valued at more than $37 billion.

* Brian Roberts, Comcast chief executive, on the synergies they can exploit: “There’s more of an upside than downside … we’re pretty excited about the whole portfolio.” In particular, the cable channels, which are “driving the growth” at NBCU.

* Roberts, on why Time Warner’s failures with Time Warner Cable are not necessarily a harbinger of bad things to come: “Time Warner has been unwinding a lot of things lately,” like AOL. “Time Warner’s unwinding of Time Warner Cable is not really relevant.”

* Steve Burke, Comcast COO who will eventually become Jeff Zucker’s boss: “Time Warner buying Turner is a better example.”

* On Versus/NBC becoming an ESPN rival, Roberts: “The idea we are going to take on ESPN is overly simplistic.”

* That said, “We have lots of time to think about these ideas.”

* On the future of a free Hulu and NBC video content on the Web, Roberts said “those decisions are NBC’s for the next year.” Zucker added: “A product roadmap is not something we want to publicly talk about.”

* Roberts: “We feel on-demand is a big part of Hollywood’s future.”

* On the potential for post-merger layoffs, Roberts said “there is very little overlap among the companies’ estimated 130,000 employees. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent” have job functions that don’t overlap.

* “There will certainly not be a large number of headcount reduction.”