MediaFile

Is Comcast really the Worst Company In America? Really?

Comcast-worstcompanyawardBrianRobsSo Comcast ‘won’ the Worst Company In America award from readers of The Consumerist blog, which as its tagline suggests, is the place where “shoppers bite back”. Yet we have to ask, is Comcast really the worst company in America or is it all relative?

The Consumerist’s readers are likely to have contact with Comcast through its customer service. They, like many, have likely been frustrated with waiting for hours for a technician (sleeping or awake). Or maybe it’s taken Comcast a day or two too long to fix their high-definition DVR boxes?

Fairly or unfairly, Comcast’s reputation had gotten so bad the company took the opportunity of a new product launch  to change its customer-facing name to Xfinity. But it’s not just customer service. Consumerist’s readers have also been ticked off by what they see as  above-inflation price rises, throttling Internet access, and Comcast’s plans to buy NBC Universal.

Depending on your view,  some of these are clearly not customer-friendly business practices (for the others we’ll let regulators decide). Yet how does the biggest U.S. cable company compare with some of the other top companies that have had a tough time in the reputation stakes in recent months?

Take Bank of America, which incidentally made the final four on the Consumerist list. Some readers of the blog were disappointed this behemoth of Charlotte didn’t run away with the award the same way it did with taxpayers’ bailout dollars while also having to foreclose on those same consumers’ homes. As one Consumerist reader puts it: “I still think BOA was robbed. Which is ironic.”

UPDATE: Everybody loves Steve Burke, even Warren Buffett

Stephen BurkeWhen news of Comcast’s bid for NBC Universal broke on Sept 30 most of the spotlight focused on Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts.

But as the weeks dragged on, some of that spotlight began to shine on his number 2, Stephen Burke, chief operating officer and a former senior Disney executive.

As we now know since the deal was confirmed on Dec 3, NBC Universal’s top brass will report to Burke, making him (once you count the 24 million subscribers he also oversees) one of the most powerful men in TV.

Zucker praises Comcast; but will it be a good fit?

zuckerWhen it comes to the Comcast-NBC Universal deal, one of the big stories over the coming year will center on corporate culture. Maybe too much is made of this, maybe different cultures had nothing to do with the disaster that was Time Warner-AOL, for instance. But I doubt it.

Which brings us back to Comcast-NBC Universal. The New York Post got a jump on the culture clash story today, and UBS banker Aryeh Bourkoff followed up on it during an interview with NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker at the UBS Media and Communications Conference.

Asked about his relationship with Comcast’s Brian Roberts and Steve Burke, Zucker said up the following. (Perhaps he’s already figuring out the Comcast culture of bland, family friendly diplomacy).

Media, tech moguls meet in New York (You are NOT invited)

Media and technology executives are meeting Wednesday and Thursday in New York City at a conference hosted by private equity firm Quadrangle. Note the word private.

When they meet at the Plaza, they will talk about a ton of different things that their customers, their investors and other readers want to know. I have to apologize for them because they’re not letting in any riff-raff. And that includes reporters who get paid to spend all day figuring out how these people decide what kind of entertainment you want, what kind of technology you pay them for and what deals they pursue with the money that you give them when you buy their stock. This event always excludes press, but that’s no reason not to highlight what you probably are missing because of this. After all, who wants to wait for the 8-K filing?

Some press will be allowed, but it will be an assortment of celebrity journalists who will moderate panels and, according to Peter Kafka, author of “MediaMemo” at News Corp’s AllThingsD blog, will not write about the event (I’m talking about Maria Bartiromo and David Faber of CNBC, The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, etc).

Comcast’s Brian Roberts at Web 2.0 (video)

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts took time out from strategizing over his company’s reported bid to buy NBC Universal to speak at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. As expected, Roberts declined to comment on any ”specific” deals including NBC. But he did indicate as he has done in the past that content will be an important part of his company’s future and that it is always “prudent” to take a look at opportunities as they come up.

While he remained on message (or is that off message?), Jeff Immelt, his counterpart at NBC Universal’s parent General Electric, was a little more forthcoming, saying the company is considering its options for NBC Universal which could include keeping it.

In this 43 minute interview, Roberts also talked on a range of other topics including the importance of building faster Internet services and gave a demostration of his company’s On Demand Online service which he said will be launching nationally before the end of the year.

Time Warner’s Bewkes: ‘No no, after you Brian’

If you’ve ever listened to Time Warner chief executive Jeffrey Bewkes speak, you’ll be used to his breezy, languid style. But he sounded even more so than usual on Friday at a conference in Washington D.C.  when asked about the big media story of the year so far: Comcast’s bid to take control of NBC Universal.

Comcast’s bid, led by CEO Brian Roberts, is exactly the opposite of what Bewkes has been doing at Time Warner, where rather than buying he’s spun off the cable assets and hopes to do the same with AOL by the end of this year.  So Bewkes couldn’t resist a little jab at his rival and sometimes partner:

“I don’t want to say anything that would discourage Brian from continuing in this pursuit that he has,” Bewkes said to laughter from the audience.

Is Comcast on the prowl for Big Media ?

Comcast made a bold $54 billion bid for Walt Disney Co. in 2004. It failed — but there are those who wonder today if the cable provider might be considering a play for another media giant.

Reuters’ Yinka Adegoke takes a look at this idea in a story that recounts the speculation about Comcast’s desire to be a major player in Big Media.

Stockholders, who have watched the value of Comcast shares shrink to historical lows, might not be so thrilled about such a move.

Comcast CEO Roberts makes the Top 15 on pay

While we were at The Cable Show last week, Comcast filed a documents with securities regulators detailing its 2008 executive compensation. The filing showed that Chief Executive Brian Roberts received $23.7 million in 2008 up from $20.8 million in 2007 but below his 2006 payout of $26 million.

Roberts, as the AP points out, has long been criticized by shareholders for the size of his pay package. His increase comes after Comcast shares fell some 7.6 percent in the calendar year 2008, but this outperformed most of the major market indexes, which fell between 30 to 45 percent last year.

In February Roberts and other executives agreed to forgo a pay rise in 2009 and cut back on personal benefits, including a previous agreement which had guaranteed the payment of his base salary and cash bonus to his heirs for up to five years after his death — a so called ‘golden coffin’ package.