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06.20.17 | 8:43 am

Comcast and Big Cable get whacked with stock downgrades amid cord-cutting crisis

These are troubling times for Big Cable and things are not likely to improve anytime soon. That's the takeaway from a new research note from MoffettNathanson in which the firm looked at the accelerating decline of traditional pay-TV subscriptions. The firm downgraded cable giant Comcast from "buy" to "neutral." It also downgraded the cable sector as a whole from "overweight" to "neutral." The firm notes that Comcast shares have tripled over the last five years and major cable stocks have been trading at their highest multiples since the telecom bubble of the 1990s. The new ratings bring the sector more in light with the current reality, MoffettNathanson writes, in which traditional cable viewing will come under more pressure from over-the-top services like Hulu and SlingTV while broadband growth at the cable companies will inevitably slow down. It's not a apocalypse yet, but a "more credible, and less bombastic, scenario."

So just how bad are things going to get? Well, cable companies are also broadband companies, so as long as you need internet pumped into your house, ditching your cable company won't be so simple. But cord-cutting is real and getting worse: As we reported in May, providers lost an estimated 762,000 pay-TV subscribers in the first quarter of this year, making it the worst quarter ever. Ironically, Comcast was the only major cable company to buck the trend. We'll know soon if its good fortunes will continue in Q2.

[Photo: via Wikimedia Commons]

05.18.17 | 3:27 pm

Surprise! Comcast loves the FCC’s plan to roll back net neutrality rules

As expected, the FCC voted 2-1 Thursday along party lines to take the next step toward reversing its Obama-era policies on net neutrality. And also unsurprisingly Comcast and other internet service providers celebrated the decision. In a blog post today, Comcast's David Cohen said the FCC's Republican commissioners are "creating a light touch regulatory environment that is pro-consumer, pro-investment, and pro-innovation." The cable giant said Thursday it "will not block, slow down, or discriminate against lawful content," but net freedom advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have long warned Comcast and competitors may change those policies without neutrality rules in place.

[Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart]

04.27.17 | 9:01 am

Don’t tell Comcast about the cord-cutting crisis

The Philly cable powerhouse continues to buck the industry trend of customers abandoning linear pay television in favor of streaming services. In its Q1 2017 earnings report this morning, Comcast said it added 42,000 pay TV subscribers in the first three months of the year, most of whom were residential customers. This has been something of a rosy pattern for Comcast. It was the only legacy cable company to end 2016 with a net gain of pay TV customers. According to Leichtman Research, it added 161,000 for the year. Comcast's many customer service woes earned it a certain level of infamy a few years ago. These days, it credits customer gains with its fancy X1 platform, which is now being used by more than half of its residential customers. Read the full report here.

[Photo: iStock]

04.07.17 | 7:51 am

Comcast wants to be your mobile data provider

The home internet provider has unveiled its new Xfinity Mobile service, which offers its Xfinity customers two wireless options, reports the Boston Globe. Unlimited data over Wi-Fi and cellular will cost users $45 to $65 per line a month. The company also will offer a pay-as-you-go plan for $12 per gigabyte. Comcast hopes that its new wireless service will help fend off competition from mobile providers who are frequently offering unlimited data through their plans.

03.24.17 | 10:37 am

Comcast’s new plan for cord cutters is taking shape

For the legacy cable business, there are two ways to address cord-cutting: Try to win customers back with sweeter pay-TV packages or let them cut the cord and offer them your own streaming service. Comcast's strategy for option B appears to be taking shape, as Bloomberg reported this week. The Philly cable giant has negotiated key streaming deals with cable TV owners to offer their networks across the country. Conceivably, that could mean a Comcast-run streaming service that rivals Sling TV or PlayStation Vue. For now, there don't seem to be any immediate plans to release a product, but I wouldn't be surprised if we heard rumblings of one soon. Read more from Bloomberg

02.27.17 | 11:56 am

See that? Even Google and Comcast can play nice

There may be hope for humanity yet. Tech giant Google and cable giant Comcast have not always been the best of friends, but it looks like they're willing to put their differences aside once in a while for the greater good. The companies said today that they will launch a YouTube app on Comcast's Xfinity X1 platform later this year, giving X1 users more seamless access to YouTube videos. 

Comcast and Google have been at odds on a number of issues, including the FCC's ill-fated plan to force cable companies to open up their set-top boxes. Google had wanted to make its own boxes for cable TV content. Still, the X1 has proven a popular platform, and even Comcast's biggest nemeses don't want to miss out. Netflix, another Comcast foe, was added to the platform in November of last year.

[Photo: Flickr user Andrew Perry]

02.02.17 | 6:18 pm

Comcast’s anti-Trump walkout ushers in the era of Slacktivism

Here's an interesting sidelight in Billy Penn's coverage of the big walkout of Comcast employees to protest the Trump administration's ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries: The Comcast staffers, who work at one of Slack's biggest customers, organized their protest in a Slack channel. As Billy Penn's Anna Orso reports:

Comcast employees in at least four cities self-organized the protest through an internal Slack channel that Comcast organizers told Billy Penn grew from about 100 people to 1,200 people this week. Comcast is one of the largest employers in the Philadelphia region and stands as the most influential corporation in the city.

Sure, it would have been possible to coordinate such a massive act of social activism in the era before modern collaboration tools—but Slack, though not designed with that particular purpose in mind, must have been a near-ideal venue.
11.16.16 | 7:41 pm

This bot negotiates with Comcast to lower your cable bill

The mad geniuses at Trim have come up with a Chrome browser extension that sends a chatbot into battle with a Comcast Chat rep to get your bill lowered. It's possibly the friendliest battle you'll ever see. Check it.

Trim says the longer the bot stays in the chat, the better its chances of lowering your bill. You can switch into "manual" mode to keep things on track, if need be. The bot hilariously provides you with a choice of games (Pong, Snakes, etc.) to play while you wait. But the chat is entertaining enough. The bot relentlessly prompts the Comcast rep (which is almost certainly a bot, too) to find a way to lower the bill, or at least offer a one-time credit. There's just something so beautiful about watching two bots go at it, each trying its best to sound warm and human.

10.20.16 | 6:12 pm

Another giant sack of LOL money for BuzzFeed

NBCUniversal is said to be doubling its investment in BuzzFeedRecode reported todaypumping another $200 million into the digital media powerhouse. NBCU, which is owned by Comcast, invested $200 million in BuzzFeed last year in a deal that valued the viral news site at $1.5 billion. At the time, analysts told me the deal made more sense than it might seem given NBCU's huge news interests and hunger to reach a younger demographic. 

Still, digital media has had a tough year, and BuzzFeed gained some bad press in April after a Financial Times report that said it halved its 2016 revenue goals (a report BuzzFeed disputed). More recently, the company has redoubled its focus on video

[Photo: Comcast]

09.21.16 | 7:38 am

Comcast will launch a Google Project Fi-like mobile phone service in 2017

The new MVNO cellular service was confirmed by CEO Brian Roberts at an investor's conference on Tuesday. The as yet unnamed Comcast mobile phone service will put a large focus on Wi-Fi hotspots, just like Google's Project Fi service does, reports the Verge. When Comcast's network isn't connecting calls on Wi-Fi it will piggyback on Verizon's network. Roberts didn't announce any pricing plans or an exact launch date, only saying the service should roll out by mid-2017.

[Photo: Comcast]

09.15.16 | 1:46 pm

Comcast took less than a month to start slashing jobs at DreamWorks

Comcast's NBCUniversal said today it will lay off about 200 people from DreamWorks Animation, which it recently purchased for $3.8 billion. The sale was finalized just three weeks ago, Variety reports. The company said affected employees will be notified this week, attributing the cuts to integration. Comcast scooped up the DreamWorks—which owns popular kid-friendly franchises like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda—as a way of staying competitive against Disney and its hit-making animation powerhouse Pixar.   

[Photo: DreamWorks]

09.12.16 | 2:53 pm

Netflix to FCC: data caps serve no legitimate purpose

In a 10-page filing last week, Netflix argued that the FCC should crack down on internet service providers that impose data caps or usage-based pricing, stating that such tactics—employed by the likes of Comcast, AT&T, and others—inhibit innovation, discourage competition, and harm consumers. Of course, they're not so great for Netflix, either.     

"Watching television shows and movies on the Internet is no longer a novelty. Consumers increasingly expect more from their broadband connection, and they expect that broadband Internet will deliver a television experience that is the same or better than what they receive from their cable service, satellite provider, or local broadcaster."

The company goes on to argue that usage caps on fixed-line broadband networks serve no "legitimate purpose." DSL Reports caught wind of the filing and wrote about it today. Read more here