Comcast Corporation, formerly registered as Comcast Holdings,[note 1] is the largest broadcasting and cable company in the world by revenue. It is the largest cable company and home Internet service provider in the United States, and the nation's third largest home telephone service provider. Comcast services U.S. residential and commercial customers in 40 states and the District of Columbia. The company is headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
As the owner of the international media company NBCUniversal since 2011, Comcast is a producer of feature films and television programs intended for theatrical exhibition and over-the-air and cable television broadcast.
Comcast also operates three cable-only channels (E! Entertainment Television, the Golf Channel, and NBCSN), and over-the-air national broadcast network channels (NBC and Telemundo), the film production studio Universal Pictures, and Universal Parks & Resorts, with a global total of nearly 200 family entertainment locations and attractions in the U.S. and several other countries including U.A.E., South Korea, Russia and China, with several new locations reportedly planned and being developed for future operation. Comcast also has significant holding in digital distribution (ThePlatform). In February 2014 the company agreed to merge with Time Warner Cable in an equity swap deal worth $45.2 billion. Under the terms of the agreement Comcast is to acquire 100% of Time Warner Cable.
Comcast has been criticized for a number of reasons. Comcast's customer satisfaction often ranks among the lowest in the cable industry. Comcast has violated net neutrality practices in the past; and, despite Comcast's commitment to a narrow definition of net neutrality, critics advocate a definition of which precludes distinction between Comcast's private network services and the rest of the Internet. Critics also point out a lack of competition; in the vast majority of Comcast's service area, it does not compete with other cable providers. Given Comcast's negotiating power as a large ISP, some suspect that Comcast could leverage paid peering agreements to unfairly influence end-user connection speeds.
- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 3 Divisions and Subsidiaries
- 4 Criticism and controversy
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Comcast is sometimes described as a family business. Brian L. Roberts, Chairman, President, and CEO of Comcast, is son of co-founder Ralph Roberts. Brian owns or controls just over 1% of all Comcast shares but all of the Class B supervoting shares, which gives him an "undilutable 33% voting power over the company". Legal expert Susan P. Crawford has said this gives him "effective control over its [Comcast's] every step". In 2010, he was one of the highest-paid executives in the country, with total compensation of about $31 million.
Comcast is headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and also has corporate offices in Atlanta, Detroit, Denver, and Manchester, New Hampshire. On January 3, 2005, Comcast announced that it would become the anchor tenant in the new Comcast Center in downtown Philadelphia. The 975 ft (297 m) skyscraper is the tallest building in Pennsylvania. Comcast has announced plans to begin construction on a second 1,121 ft (342 m) skyscraper directly adjacent to the original Comcast headquarters in the summer of 2014.
Comcast had been rated highly in "top places to work" lists. In 2009, it was listed in CableFAX magazine's "Top 10 Places to Work in Cable", which cited its "scale, savvy and vision". Similarly, the Philadelphia Business Journal awarded Comcast the silver medal among extra-large companies in Philadelphia, with the gold medal going to partner organization, Comcast-Spectacor. The Boston Globe found Comcast to be that city's top place to work in 2009. Employee diversity is also an attribute upon which Comcast receives strong marks. In 2008, Black Enterprise magazine rated Comcast among the top 15 companies for workforce diversity. Comcast was also named a "Top 2014 Workplace" by the Washington Post in their annual feature, released on June 22, 2014.
However, Comcast has earned a reputation for being anti-union. According to one of the company's training manuals, "Comcast does not feel union representation is in the best interest of its employees, customers, or shareholders". A dispute in 2004 with CWA, a labor union that represented many employees at Comcast's offices in Beaverton, Oregon, led to allegations of management intimidating workers, requiring them to attend anti-union meetings and unwarranted disciplinary action for union members. In 2011, Comcast received criticism from Writers Guild of America for its policies in regards to unions.
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The book value of the company nearly doubled from $8.19 a share in 1999 to $15 a share in 2009. Revenues grew sixfold from 1999's $6 billion to almost $36 billion in 2009. Net profit margin rose from 4.2% in 1999 to 8.4% in 2009, with operating margins improving 31 percent and return on equity doubling to 6.7 percent in the same time span. Between 1999 and 2009, return on capital nearly tripled to 7 percent. Comcast reported first quarter 2012 profit increases of 30% due to increase in high-speed internet customers.
Lobbying and electoral fundraising
With $18.8 million spent in 2013, Comcast has the seventh largest lobbying budget of any individual company or organization in the United States. Comcast employs multiple former US Congressmen as lobbyists. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which has multiple Comcast executives on its board, also represents Comcast and other cable companies as the fifth largest lobbying organization in the United States, spending $19.8 million in 2013. Comcast was among the top backers of Barack Obama's presidential runs, with Comcast vice president David Cohen raising over $2.2 million from 2007 to 2012. Cohen has been described by many sources as influential in the US government, though he is no longer a registered lobbyist, as the time he spends lobbying falls short of the 20% which requires official registration. Comcast's PAC, the Comcast Corporation and NBCUniversal Political Action Committee, is the among the largest PACs in the US, raising about $3.7 million from 2011-2012 for the campaigns of various candidates for office in the United States Federal Government. Comcast is also a major backer of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association Political Action Committee, which raised $2.6 million from 2011-2012. Comcast spent the most money of any organization in support of the Stop Online Piracy and PROTECT IP bills, spending roughly $5 million to lobby for their passage.
Comcast also backs lobbying and PACs on a regional level, backing organizations such as the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association and the Broadband Communications Association of Washington PAC. Comcast and other cable companies have lobbied state governments to pass legislation restricting or banning individual cities from offering public broadband service. Municipal broadband restrictions of varying scope have been passed in a total of 20 US States.
Comcast operates most of its philanthropic programs through its charitable arm, the Comcast Foundation. The organization is particularly focused on minority groups, such as the Hispanic National Council of La Raza. In 2014, the foundation reported grants totaling $591,000 to nonprofits in parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and West Virginia.
Outside the Comcast Foundation, Comcast offers low cost internet to some low income households. Comcast offers low cost internet to schools, subsidized by general broadband consumers through the US government's E-Rate program. Critics have noted that many of the strongest supporters of Comcast's business deals have received substantial funding from the Comcast Foundation.
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Early history (1963-1990)
In 1963, Ralph J. Roberts in conjunction with his two business partners, Daniel Aaron and Julian A. Brodsky, purchased American Cable Systems as a corporate spin-off from its parent, Jerrold Electronics, for US $500,000. At the time, American Cable was a small cable operator in Tupelo, Mississippi with five channels and 15,000 customers. The company was incorporated in Pennsylvania in 1969, under the new name Comcast Corporation. The name "Comcast" is a portmanteau of the words "Communication" and "Broadcast". Comcast's initial public offering occurred on June 29, 1972, with a market capitalization of US $3,010,000. Comcast bought 26% of Group W Cable in 1986, doubling its number of subscribers to 1 million. Although Comcast lost a bidding war with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts to buy Storer Communications in 1985, in 1988, it was able to buy a 50% share of the company's assets in a joint deal with Tele-Communications. Comcast also acquired American Cellular Network Corporation in 1988 for $230 million, marking the first time it became a mobile phone operator. Comcast combined with Metrophone in 1990.
In February 1990, Ralph Roberts' son, Brian L. Roberts, succeeded his father as president of Comcast. In 1994, Comcast became the third largest cable operator in the United States with around 3.5 million subscribers following its purchase of Maclean-Hunter's American division for $1.27 billion. Following a bid in 1994 for $2.1 billion, Comcast increased its ownership of QVC 15.5% of stock to a majority, in a move to prevent QVC from merging with CBS. Comcast later sold its QVC shares in 2004 to Liberty Media for $7.9 billion. In October 1995, Comcast announced the purchase of the cable operation of E. W. Scripps Company for $1.575 billion in stock, a deal making Comcast the no. 3 cable company with 4.3 million customers. Comcast offered internet connection for the first time in 1996, with its part in the launch of the @Home Network. When Excite@Home went bankrupt in 2002, Comcast took over providing internet directly to consumers. Comcast purchased Sarasota Online from Richard Swier. Microsoft invested $1 billion in Comcast in 1997. In February 1998, Comcast sold its UK division to NTL for US $600 million, along with the division's $397 million in debt. Additionally, Comcast sold their cellular division to SBC Communications in 1999 for $400 million, releasing them from $1.27 billion in debt. Comcast acquired Greater Philadelphia Cablevision in 1999. In March 1999, Comcast offered to buy MediaOne for $60 billion. However, MediaOne decided to accept AT&T Corporation's offer of $62 billion instead.
Largest US cable provider (2001-present)
In 2001, Comcast announced it would acquire the assets of the largest cable television operator at the time, AT&T Broadband, for US$44.5 billion. The proposed name for the merged company was "AT&T Comcast", but the companies ultimately decided to keep only the Comcast name. In 2002, Comcast acquired all assets of AT&T Broadband, thus making Comcast the largest cable television company in the United States with over 22 million subscribers."Revision Needed" This also spurred the start of Comcast Advertising Sales (using AT&T's groundwork) which would later be renamed Comcast Spotlight. As part of this acquisition, Comcast also acquired the National Digital Television Center in Centennial, Colorado as a wholly owned subsidiary, which is today known as the Comcast Media Center.
On February 11, 2004, Comcast announced a $54 billion bid for The Walt Disney Company, as well as taking on $12 billion of Disney's debt. The deal would have made Comcast the largest media conglomerate in the world. However, after rejection by Disney and uncertain response from investors, the bid was abandoned in April. It was later discovered that the deal was mostly for Comcast to acquire Disney's 80 percent stake in ESPN, which a Comcast executive called "the most important and valuable asset" that Disney owned.
On April 8, 2005, a partnership led by Comcast and Sony Pictures Entertainment finalized a deal to acquire MGM and its affiliate studio, United Artists, and create an additional outlet to carry MGM/UA's material for cable and Internet distribution. On October 31, 2005, Comcast officially announced that it had acquired Susquehanna Communications a South Central Pennsylvania, -based cable television and broadband services provider and unit of the former Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff company, for $775 million cash. In this deal Comcast acquired approximately 230,000 basic cable customers, 71,000 digital cable customers, and 86,000 high-speed Internet customers. Comcast previously owned approximately 30 percent of Susquehanna Communications through affiliate company Lenfest. In December 2005, Comcast announced the creation of Comcast Interactive Media, a new division focused on online media.
In July 2006, Comcast purchased the Seattle-based software company thePlatform. This represented an entry into a new line of business – selling software to allow companies to manage their Internet (and IP-based) media publishing efforts.
On April 3, 2007, Comcast announced it had entered into an agreement to acquire the cable systems owned and operated by Patriot Media, a privately held company owned by cable veteran Steven J. Simmons, Spectrum Equity Investors and Spire Capital, that serves approximately 81,000 video subscribers. Comcast will acquire Patriot for a net cash investment of approximately $483 million. By acquiring the niche provider the deal will plug a hole in its central New Jersey service.
Comcast announced in May 2007 and launched in September 2008 a dashboard called SmartZone. Hewlett-Packard led "design, creation and management". Collaboration and unified messaging technology came from open-source vendor Zimbra. "SmartZone users will be able to send and receive e-mail, listen to their voicemail messages online and forward that information via e-mail to others, send instant messages and video instant messages and merge their contacts into one address book". There is also Cloudmark spam and phishing protection and Trend Micro antivirus. The address book is Comcast Plaxo software.
Comcast won the Consumerist Worst Company In America ("Golden Poo") award in 2010. A gold trophy in the shape of a pile of human feces was delivered to Comcast Corporate Headquarters to commemorate the unmatched level of enmity flowing from their customer base to their business. Competitor Verizon congratulated Comcast on their award via the Verizon Twitter feed. Comcast immediately publicly acknowledged the award, claiming ongoing efforts to improve their customer service.
In April 2005, Comcast and Time Warner Cable announced plans to buy the assets of bankrupted Adelphia Cable. The two companies paid a total of $17.6 billion in the deal that was finalized in the second quarter of 2006—after the FCC completed a seven-month investigation without raising an objection. Time Warner Cable became the second largest cable provider in the U.S., ranking behind Comcast. As part of the deal, Time Warner and Comcast traded existing subscribers in order to consolidate them into larger geographic clusters.
In August 2006, Comcast and Time Warner dissolved a 50/50 partnership that controlled the systems in the Houston, Southwest Texas, San Antonio, and Kansas City markets under the Time Warner brand. After the dissolution, Comcast obtained the Houston system, and Time Warner retained the others. On January 1, 2007, Comcast officially took control of the Houston system, but continued to operate under the Time Warner Cable brand until June 19, 2007.
Media outlets began reporting in late September 2009 that Comcast was in talks to buy NBCUniversal. Comcast denied the rumors at first, while NBC would not comment on them. However, CNBC itself reported on October 1 that General Electric was considering spinning NBCUniversal off into a separate company that would merge the NBC television network and its cable properties such as USA Network, Syfy and MSNBC with Comcast's content assets. GE would maintain 49% control of the new company, while Comcast owned 51%. Vivendi, which owns 20%, would have to sell its stake to GE. It was reported that under the current deal with GE that it would happen in November or December. It was also reported that Time Warner would be interested in placing a bid, until CEO Jeffrey L. Bewkes directly denied interest, leaving Comcast the sole bidder. On November 1, 2009, The New York Times reported Comcast had moved closer to a deal to purchase NBCUniversal and that a formal announcement could be made sometime the following week.
Following a tentative agreement on by December 1, on December 3, 2009, the parties announced that Comcast would buy a controlling 51% stake in NBCUniversal for $6.5 billion in cash and $7.3 billion in programming. GE would take over the remaining 49% stake in NBCUniversal, using $5.8 billion to buy out Vivendi's 20% minority stake in NBCUniversal. On January 18, 2011, the FCC approved the deal by a vote of 4 to 1. The sale was completed on January 28, 2011. In late December 2012, Comcast added the NBC peacock symbol to their new logo. On February 12, 2013, Comcast announced an intention to acquire the remaining 49% of General Electric's interest in NBCUniversal, which Comcast completed on March 19, 2013.
Time Warner Cable
On February 12, 2014, it was reported that Comcast was seeking to acquire Time Warner Cable in a deal valued at $45.2 billion. On February 13, it was reported that Time Warner Cable agreed to the acquisition. This would add several metropolitan areas to the Comcast portfolio, such as New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Charlotte, San Diego, and San Antonio. Time Warner Cable and Comcast aim to merge into one company by the end of 2014. Comcast and Time Warner Cable have praised the deal, emphasizing the increased capabilities of a combined telecommunications network, and to "create operating efficiencies and economies of scale".
Critics have expressed concern that the deal would give Comcast greater negotiating power in a number of areas, including rebroadcast fees with television channels, and peering agreements with ISPs.
Critics have noted that Tom Wheeler, the head of the FCC, which has to approve the deal is the former head of both the largest cable lobbying organization, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and as largest wireless lobby, CTIA – The Wireless Association. According to Politico, Comcast "donated to almost every member of Congress who has a hand in regulating it." The US Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the deal on April 9. The House Judiciary Committee has also planned its own hearing.
On March 6, 2014 the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division confirmed the launch of an investigation into the deal. The division's chairman, William Baer, has recused himself due to his involvement in the previous Comcast NBCUniversal acquisition. Several states' attorneys general have announced support for the federal investigation. In February 2014, thanks to the Sochi Olympics, Comcast was able to generate 1.1 billion in revenue during the first quarter.
Divisions and Subsidiaries
Comcast Cable is the largest division of Comcast Corporation, providing cable television, broadband internet, and voip telephone under the Xfinity brand. Comcast Cable also provides connections to business through its Comcast Business brand.
Comcast not only delivers third-party television programming content to its own customers, but also produces its own first-party content both for subscribers and customers of other competing television services. Fully or partially owned Comcast programming includes Comcast Newsmakers, Comcast Network, Comcast SportsNet, SportsNet New York, MLB Network, Comcast Sports Southeast/Charter Sports Southeast, NBC Sports Network, The Golf Channel, AZN Television, and FEARnet. On May 19, 2009, Disney and ESPN announced an agreement to allow Comcast Corporation to carry the channels ESPNU and ESPN3. The U.S. Olympic Committee and Comcast intended to team up to create The U.S. Olympic Network, which was slated to launch after the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. These plans were then put on hold by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The U.S. Olympic Committee and Comcast have ended the plans to create The U.S. Olympic Network.
Comcast's content networks and investments also include E!, Esquire Network, Golf Channel, NBC Sports Network, Sprout, TV One, G4 (defunct) and the regional Comcast SportsNets. When Comcast took majority ownership in NBCUniversal, significant number of cable networks were added to this list. Comcast's NHL deal obligated them to create a U.S. version of NHL Network, launched in October 2007.
Comcast also owns many local channels. Comcast also has a variety network known as Comcast Network, available exclusively to Comcast and Cablevision subscribers. The channel shows news, sports, and entertainment and places emphasis in Philadelphia and the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. areas, though the channel is also available in New York, Pittsburgh, and Richmond. In August 2004, Comcast started a channel called Comcast Entertainment Television, for Colorado Comcast subscribers, and focusing on life in Colorado. It also carries some National Hockey League and National Basketball Association games when Altitude Sports & Entertainment is carrying the NHL or NBA. In January 2006, CET became the primary channel for Colorado's Emergency Alert System in the Denver Metro Area. In 2006, Comcast helped found the channel SportsNet New York, acquiring a minority stake. The other partners in the project were New York Mets and Time Warner Cable.
In 1996, Comcast bought a controlling stake in Spectacor from the company's founder, Ed Snider. Comcast-Spectacor holdings now include the Philadelphia Flyers NHL hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team and two large multipurpose arenas in Philadelphia. Over a number of years, Comcast became majority owner of Comcast SportsNet, as well as the Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network (formerly the Outdoor Life Network, then Versus). In 2002, Comcast paid the University of Maryland $25 million for naming rights to the new basketball arena built on the College Park campus, the XFINITY Center. Before it was renamed for Comcast's cable subsidiary, XFINITY Center was called Comcast Center from its opening in 2002 through July 2014.
Comcast founded its first venture capital fund in January 1999, as Comcast Interactive Capital. Around 2011, following the 2009 NBC Universal acquisition, Comcast Interactive Capital was merged withThe Peacock Equity Fund, the venture capital subsidiary of NBCUniversal. The combined company, Comcast Ventures, backs various companies such as FanDuel and Vox Media, for example.
Criticism and controversy
In 2004 and 2007, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey found that Comcast had the worst customer satisfaction rating of any company or government agency in the country, including the Internal Revenue Service. The ACSI indicates that almost half of all cable customers (regardless of company) have registered complaints, and that cable is the only industry to score below 60 in the ACSI. Comcast's Customer Service Rating by the ACSI surveys indicate that the company's customer service has not improved since the surveys began in 2001. Analysis of the surveys states that "Comcast is one of the lowest scoring companies in ACSI. As its customer satisfaction eroded by 7% over the past year, revenue increased by 12%." The ACSI analysis also addresses this contradiction, stating that "Such pricing power usually comes with some level of monopoly protection and most cable companies have little competition at the local level. This also means that a cable company can do well financially even though its customers are not particularly satisfied."
In April 2014, Comcast was awarded the 2014 "Worst Company in America" award; an annual contest by the consumer affairs blog The Consumerist that runs a series of reader polls to determine the least popular company in America. This is the second time Comcast has been awarded this title, the first being in 2010.
Comcast spends millions of dollars annually on government relationships. Comcast employs the spouses, sons and daughters of mayors, councilmen, commissioners, and other officials to assure its continued preferred market allocations.
Comcast was given an "F" for its corporate governance practices in 2010, by Corporate Library, an independent shareholder-research organization. According to Corporate Library, Comcast's board of directors ability to oversee and control management was severely compromised (at least in 2010) by the fact that several of the directors either worked for the company or had business ties to it (making them susceptible to management pressure), and a third of the directors were over 70 years of age. According to the Wall Street Journal nearly two-thirds of the flights of Comcast's $40 million corporate jet purchased for business travel related to the NBCU acquisition, were to CEO Brian Roberts' private homes or to resorts.
In July 2014, Ryan Block called Comcast in an attempt to disconnect his service. The customer service representative refused his request, demanded reasons for his cancellation request, and incessantly argued with him. The conversation was recorded by Block and posted online, a customer service horror story that quickly went viral.
- Before the AT&T merger in 2001, the parent company was Comcast Holdings Corporation. Comcast Holdings Corporation now refers to a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation, not the parent company (see: Bloomberg profile on Comcast Holdings Corporation). Technically, the current parent company was founded 7 Dec 2001 as CAB Holdings Corporation, which changed its name to AT&T Comcast Corporation before finally taking on the Comcast Corporation name (see: Nov 2002 8K/A Form and Nov 2002 S-4).
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Comcast.|
- Official website
- Comcast SEC filings
- Portrait of ComcastNBCU at mediadb.eu
- Biography of Daniel Aaron