Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Addresses CES


Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast at CESEarlier this morning I attended the keynote address given by Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast. Paul did as well, and I suspect he’ll post himself, but it’s probably good to get two different perspectives. Engadget covered the proceedings as well.

Roberts began with a trip down memory lane. He told of a walk through the CES show floor he took with Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner. They were surprised to see the proliferation of devices that leverage cable’s platform, yet cable had virtually no presence at the event.

Cable, through CableLabs, began to reach out to the consumer electronics industry. As cable modems became available at retail, cable broadband took off.

Today we’re announcing the age of the closed proprietary set-top box is behind us.

Today Cable is employing a similar approach to TV and this week Panasonic and Comcast announced <tru2way>, the open standard for cable. This year <tru2way> will be rolled out to cable systems across the country and consumers will be able to purchase televisions with <tru2way> that plug directly into the cable network with no set-top box, no extra wires, and access to cable’s interactive services. <tru2way> offers an open platform for development with open APIs and a Java based system.

<tru2way> will be supported on MS Media Center PCs as well with all cable content, including program guide and OnDemand, accessible through the Media Center system.


AnyPlay from ComcastRoberts introduced Panasonic’s Toshihiro Sakamoto to introduce AnyPlay – a new set-top box with removable DVD and DVR capability. AnyPlay is a take and go device that connects to a docking station when working as the set-top box, but can be lifted out and taken as a portable media player for watching media at home or on the road. The device is about the size of a portable DVD player, but has DVR functionality embedded as well.

Roberts recognized his father, Richard Roberts who originally founded Comcast in 1963 as a 1,200 subscriber system in Tupelo Mississippi, offering 5 channels (twice as many as were available over the air).

The original premise then, as now, is “choice sells”.

Comcast began offering On Demand video services with 250 viewing choices. That increased to 1500 in a year. Now more than 10,000 viewing options are available every month. Comcast is now the largest provider of OnDemand in the world. 90% of their content is free. Customers using OnDemand have accounted for 6,000,000,000 views since launch – twice the number of iTunes downloads and six times more than NetFlix.

What’s more is OnDemand is only available to 15 of 25 million Comcast homes, but they have plans to roll out to everyone.

Beyond that, however, Comcast announced plans to provide 1,000 HD choices in every HD home by the end of 2008 (versus 150 for DirectTV). 2008 also begins rollout of a new system architecture, with 6000 movies on demand, 3000 in HD.

As they continue to grow Comcast is launching Project Infinity. Project Infinity is expected to scale well beyond 10,000 OnDemand options “to provide every piece of video content that a producer wants to put on TV – every movie, any TV show, any conceivable kind of video… it’s a content hungry consumers dream. You’ll never want to get off the couch.”

Comcast is also changing the communications experience. As the 4th largest phone company in America, Comcast serves more then 4 million customers. They’re rolling out new features like caller ID to the TV and integrated messaging on the web through a new feature called SmartZone.

SmartZone – introduced, via video, by Dennis Miller – integrated e-mail and voicemail in one inbox and integrates with another Comcast service called Fancast – a video and entertainment portal.

Ryan Seacrest joined Roberts on stage to introduce Fancast.

Fancast is not just another entertainment site. It’s a personal experience site with 3,000 hours of streaming videos, 10,000 movie trailers, and 11 million pages of entertainment. It provides personal recommendations based on your entertainment consumption (like Amazon). and it allows you to remotely control your DVR to record programs you’re looking at online.

Roberts used the discussion of Fancast to demonstrate cable’s new DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem standard with speeds in excess of 160 Mbps planned for rollout this year. Seacrest and Roberts downloaded a 2 hour HD movie in 4 minutes during the presentation – a download that would have taken 6 hours via DSL and 7 days on dialup.

After a couple of questions from audience members, Roberts introduced HBO’s Flight of the Conchords for a performance.

The presentation was well received by the audience including much applause for the new Comcast services, wideband cable modems and <tru2way>. We’ll try to get video of the event and put it online for you.

Update: Comcast has the video (minus the performance by Flight of the Conchords) here. And you can get a copy of the prepared text here.

2nd Update: New version of the video available, which includes Flight of the Conchords.