Cable is taking over the world, but you can still watch online . . . for a price

In his appearance at the D8 Conference, Steve Burke, COO of Comcast, sat down with Kara Swisher to discuss Comcast’s expansion, cable versus internet content, and competition.

Burke expressed Comcast’s concern for customers and their desire to get the content customers want. He highlighted that Comcast has more than 70,000 hours of content for video on demand; however, it is not the content the company is content with. One of the unfortunate roadblocks is negotiations with content producers. Likely, Comcast’s interest in purchasing distributors like NBC Universal is an effort to bypass this impediment.

He supports the concept of customers being able to access programming online as long as they maintain a cable subscription. He understands customers want their shows online and he seems intent to find a way to make it work.

When it came to tiered pricing, Burke conceded  people may only want to pay for specific channels and they could create less expensive bundles; however, the tiered bundle business model has proven successful for cable companies, programmers and consumers alike. At the end of the day, it appears to be about satisfying a bulk of consumers and programming affiliates. So any hopes of a la carte pricing are nothing more than pipe dreams at this point.

Confronted with the possibility of consumers turning from cable to embrace content available on the web, Burke admitted it is a concern. However, with no concrete support that people are foregoing cable, he is resistant to believe this is the case. He believes consumers will continue to pay for their cable subscriptions, at least as long as cable offers exclusive content, such as ESPN.

As for Apple and Google as competition, Burke concedes his primary competition comes from satellite and telecommunication providers. While he admits they can be complimentary to cable services, he maintains cannot offer the same content in the same way cable does, certainly not when it comes to the sheer volume cable is able to provide with facility-based infrastructure.

New technology is one of Comcast’s focuses for the future, whether it be providing for the future of 3-D or providing content accessible on the iPad. While traditional set-top box cable may be a mainstay for now, he understands the importance of having a presence in other sectors as well.