Comcast

Comcast Corporation
Formerly
  • American Cable Systems (1963-1969)
  • Comcast Holdings (1969-2001)
Public
Traded as
Industry
FoundedJune 28, 1963; 55 years ago (1963-06-28)
Tupelo, Mississippi, U.S.
FounderRalph J. Roberts[3][4]
Headquarters,
U.S.
Area served
Worldwide[5]
Key people
Products
RevenueIncreaseUS$84.526 billion (2017)[7]
IncreaseUS$17.987 billion (2017)[7]
IncreaseUS$22.714 billion (2017)[7]
IncreaseUS$186.949 billion (2017)[7]
IncreaseUS$68.606 billion (2017)[7]
OwnersRoberts family (33% voting power)
Number of employees
164,000 (December 2017)[7]
Divisions
Subsidiaries
Websitecorporate.comcast.com

Comcast Corporation (formerly registered as Comcast Holdings[note 1]) is an American global telecommunications conglomerate headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[9] It is the second-largest broadcasting and cable television company in the world by revenue and the largest pay-TV company, the largest cable TV company and largest 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 in the District of Columbia.[10] As the owner of the international media company NBCUniversal since 2011,[11][12][13][14] Comcast is a producer of feature films and television programs intended for theatrical exhibition and over-the-air and cable television broadcast, respectively.

Comcast owns and operates the Xfinity cable communications subsidiary, over-the-air national broadcast network channels (NBC and Telemundo), multiple cable-only channels (including MSNBC, CNBC, USA Network, NBCSN, and E!, among others), the film studio Universal Pictures, and Universal Parks & Resorts. It also has significant holdings in digital distribution, such as thePlatform, which it acquired in 2006. 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 was to acquire 100% of Time Warner Cable.[15] However, on April 24, 2015, Comcast terminated the agreement.[16][17] Comcast and Charter Communications entered into an agreement to conduct exclusive discussions with Sprint Corporation in late June 2017.[18] Since October 2018, it is also the parent company of mass media pan-European company Sky, making it the biggest and leading media company with more than 53 million subscribers over five countries across Europe. [19]

Comcast has been criticized for multiple reasons; its customer satisfaction often ranks among the lowest in the cable industry.[20][21] In addition, Comcast has violated net neutrality practices in the past; and, despite Comcast's commitment to a narrow definition of net neutrality,[22] critics advocate a definition which precludes any distinction between Comcast's private network services and the rest of the Internet.[23] Critics also point out a lack of competition in the vast majority of Comcast's service area; there is limited competition among cable providers.[24] Furthermore, 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. And its ownership of both content production (in NBCUniversal) and content distribution (as an ISP) has raised antitrust concerns. These issues, in addition to others, led to Comcast being dubbed "The Worst Company in America" by The Consumerist in 2010 and 2014.[25][26]

Overview

Leadership

Comcast is sometimes described as a family business.[27]Brian L. Roberts, chairman, president, and CEO of Comcast, is the son of founder Ralph Roberts. Roberts owns or controls about 1% of all Comcast shares but all of the Class B supervoting shares, which gives him an "undilutable 33% voting power over the company".[28] Legal expert Susan P. Crawford has said this gives him "effective control over [Comcast's] every step".[29] In 2010, he was one of the highest paid executives in the United States, with total compensation of about $31 million.[29]

Corporate offices

Comcast is headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and also has corporate offices in Atlanta, Detroit, Denver, Manchester, New Hampshire and New York City.[30] 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 begun construction on a second 1,121 ft (342 m) skyscraper directly adjacent to the original Comcast headquarters in the summer of 2014.[31]

Employee relations

The company is often criticized by both the media and its own staff for its less upstanding policies regarding employee relations. A 2012 Reddit post written by an anonymous Comcast call center employee eager to share their negative experiences with the public received attention from publications including The Huffington Post.[32] A 2014 investigative series published by The Verge involved interviews with 150 of Comcast's employees. It sought to examine why the company has become so widely criticized by its customers, the media and even members of its own staff. The series claimed part of the problem is internal and that Comcast's staff endures unreasonable corporate policies. According to the report: "customer service has been replaced by an obsession with sales; technicians are understaffed while tech support is poorly trained; and the company is hobbled by internal fragmentation."[33] A widely read article penned by an anonymous call center employee working for Comcast appeared in November 2014 on Cracked. Titled "Five Nightmares You Live While Working For America's Worst Company," the article also claimed that Comcast is obsessed with sales, doesn't train its employees properly and concluded that "the system makes good customer service impossible."[34]

Comcast has also 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".[35] 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.[36] In 2011, Comcast received criticism from Writers Guild of America for its policies in regards to unions.[37]

Despite these criticisms, Comcast has appeared on multiple "top places to work" lists. In 2009, it was included on CableFAX magazine's "Top 10 Places to Work in Cable", which cited its "scale, savvy and vision".[38] 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.[39][40]The Boston Globe found Comcast to be that city's top place to work in 2009.[41] 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.[42] Comcast was also named a "Top 2014 Workplace" by The Washington Post in their annual feature.[43] the Human Rights Campaign has given Comcast a 100 on the Corporate Equality Index[44] and one of the best places for LGBT people to work[45]

Financial performance

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% and return on equity doubling to 6.7% in the same time span. Between 1999 and 2009, return on capital nearly tripled to 7%.[46] Comcast reported first quarter 2012 profit increases of 30% due to increase in high-speed internet customers.[47] In February 2014, Comcast generated 1.1 billion in revenue during the first quarter due to the Sochi Olympics.[48] As of 2018, Comcast is ranked No. 33 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.[49]

For the fiscal year 2017, Comcast reported earnings of US$22.7 billion, with an annual revenue of US$84.5 billion, an increase of 5.5% over the previous fiscal cycle. Comcast's shares traded at over $37 per share, and its market capitalization was valued at over US$163.7 billion in October 2018.

Year Revenue
in mil. USD$
Net income
in mil. USD$
Total Assets
in mil. USD$
Employees
2006[50] 24,966 2,533 110,405 90,000
2007[51] 31,060 2,587 113,417 100,000
2008[52] 34,423 2,547 113,017 100,000
2009[53] 35,756 3,638 112,733 107,000
2010[54] 37,937 3,635 118,534 102,000
2011[55] 55,842 4,160 157,818 126,000
2012[56] 62,570 6,203 164,971 129,000
2013[57] 64,657 6,816 158,813 136,000
2014[58] 68,775 8,380 159,186 139,000
2015[59] 74,510 8,163 166,574 153,000
2016[60] 80,403 8,695 180,500 159,000
2017[61] 84,526 22,714 186,949 164,000

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.[62] Comcast employs multiple former U.S. Congressmen as lobbyists.[63] 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.[62] 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.[64][65] Cohen has been described by many sources as influential in the U.S. government,[66] though he is no longer a registered lobbyist, as the time he spends lobbying falls short of the 20% which requires official registration.[67] Comcast's PAC, the Comcast Corporation and NBCUniversal Political Action Committee, is the among the largest PACs in the U.S., raising about $3.7 million from 2011 to 2012 for the campaigns of various candidates for office in the United States Federal Government.[68] Comcast is also a major backer of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association Political Action Committee, which raised $2.6 million from 2011 to 2012.[69][70] 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.[71]

Comcast also backs lobbying and PACs on a regional level, backing organizations such as the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association[72] and the Broadband Communications Association of Washington PAC.[73] Comcast and other cable companies have lobbied state governments to pass legislation restricting or banning individual cities from offering public broadband service.[74]Municipal broadband restrictions of varying scope have been passed in a total of 20 U.S. States.[75]

Philanthropy

Comcast offers low cost internet and cable service to schools, subsidized by general broadband consumers through the U.S. government's E-Rate program.[76] Critics have noted that many of the strongest supporters of Comcast's business deals have received substantial funding from the Comcast Foundation.[63][77]

History

American Cable Systems

In 1963, Ralph J. Roberts in conjunction with his two business partners, Daniel Aaron[78] and Julian A. Brodsky, purchased American Cable Systems[79] as a corporate spin-off from its parent, Jerrold Electronics, for U.S. $500,000. At the time, American Cable was a small cable operator in Tupelo, Mississippi, with five channels and 12,000 customers.[80] In 1965, American Cable Systems purchased Storecast Corporation of America, a product placement supermarket specialist marketing firm.[81] In 1968, American Cable Systems purchased its first franchise of Muzak, a brand of background music played in retail stores. Storecast was a client of Muzak.[82]

Comcast

Comcast logo from 1969 to 1999 before it was replaced with the crescent logo

The company was re-incorporated in Pennsylvania in 1969, under the new name Comcast Corporation.[79] Comcast's initial public offering occurred on June 29, 1972, with a market capitalization of U.S. $3,010,000.[79][83] In 1977, HBO was first launched on a Comcast system with 20,000 customers in western Pennsylvania with a five-night free preview getting a 15% sign up rate.[79][84] In 1986, Comcast bought 26% of Group W Cable, a broadcast company, doubling its number of subscribers to 1 million.[85][86] Also that year, Comcast made a founding investment of $380 million in QVC.[79] In 1988, Comcast was able to buy a 50% share of SCI Holdings in a joint deal with Tele-Communications Inc.[87] Comcast also acquired American Cellular Network Corporation in 1988 for $230 million, marking the first time it became a mobile phone operator.[88]

Increasing market share (1990-2000)

In February 1990, Ralph Roberts' son, Brian L. Roberts, succeeded his father as president of Comcast.[89] Two years later, the company's mobile division, Comcast Cellular, purchased a controlling interest in Metromedia's Philadelphia-area cellular telephone interests, Metrophone.[79][90] 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.[85][91] Comcast grew to 4.3 million the following year with the purchase of the cable operation of E. W. Scripps Company for $1.575 billion in stock.[92]

Comcast offered internet connection for the first time in 1996, with its part in the launch of the @Home Network.[93] Also in 1996, Comcast formed Comcast Spectacor, which became owner of the Philadelphia Flyers.[94] In 1997, Microsoft invested $1 billion in Comcast, and the company launched its digital TV service.[82] That same year, in partnership with Disney, Comcast got a 50.1% controlling interest in E! Entertainment.[79] By December 31, 1997, it was available in the Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Orange County, CA, Sarasota and Union, NJ areas.[]

Comcast's cable acquisitions in 1997 were Jones Intercable, Inc. with 1 million customers, and a stake in Prime Communications with 430,000 subscribers.[79] In February 1998, Comcast sold its U.K. division to NTL for US$600 million, along with the division's $397 million in debt.[95] In 1999, Comcast sold Comcast Cellular to SBC Communications for $400 million, releasing them from $1.27 billion in debt.[96] Also in 1999, Comcast acquired Greater Philadelphia Cablevision,[97] and launched Comcast University as well as Comcast Interactive Capital Group.[79] Later, in November 1999, Comcast purchased Lenfest, a rival cable operator.[98]

Largest U.S. cable provider (2001-present)

Proposed merger name logo, 2001
Comcast logo from 2000 to 2012

In 2001, Comcast announced it would acquire the assets of the largest cable television operator at the time, AT&T Broadband, for U.S.$44.5 billion.[99] 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.[99][100] 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. In 2003, Comcast became one of the original investors in The Golf Channel.[101] After Excite@Home went bankrupt in October 2001, Comcast took over providing internet directly to consumers in January 2002.[102]

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.[103][104] However, after rejection by Disney and uncertain response from investors, the bid was abandoned in April.[105] The main reason for the buyout attempt was so that Comcast could acquire Disney's 80% stake in ESPN, which a Comcast executive called "the most important and valuable asset" that Disney owned.[106] In 2004, Comcast sold its QVC shares to Liberty Media for $7.9 billion.[107]

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 created an additional outlet to carry MGM/UA's material for cable and Internet distribution.[108][109] 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.[110][111] 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% of Susquehanna Communications through affiliate company Lenfest.[110] 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.[112] By acquiring the niche provider the deal will plug a hole in its central New Jersey service.[113]

Comcast announced in May 2007[114] and launched in September 2008 a dashboard called SmartZone.[115]Hewlett-Packard led "design, creation and management". Collaboration and unified messaging technology came from open-source vendor Zimbra.[114] "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".[114] There is also Cloudmark spam and phishing protection and Trend Micro antivirus.[114] The address book is Comcast Plaxo software.[114]

In May 2008 Comcast purchased Plaxo for a reported $150 million to $170 million.[116]

Comcast won the Consumerist Worst Company In America ("Golden Poo") award in 2010.[117] 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 responded immediately by publicly acknowledging the dubious award, and citing ongoing efforts to improve its customer service.[118] One effort to change this is a new app called, Tech ETA, that allows customers to see exactly when a technician is coming.[119]

Adelphia purchase

In April 2005, Comcast and Time Warner Cable announced plans to buy the assets of bankrupted Adelphia Cable.[120] The two companies paid a total of $17.6 billion in the deal that was finalized in the second quarter of 2006--after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) completed a seven-month investigation without raising an objection.[121]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.[122][123]

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.[124] 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.

NBCUniversal

NBCUniversal logo from 2004 to 2011
NBCUniversal logo from 2011 to present

Media outlets began reporting in late September 2009 that Comcast was in talks to buy NBC Universal. Comcast denied the rumors at first, while NBC would not comment on them.[125] However, CNBC itself reported on October 1 that General Electric was considering spinning NBC Universal off into a separate company that would merge the NBC television network and its cable properties such as USA Network, Syfy and MSNBC, as well as Universal Studios, with Comcast's content assets. GE would maintain 49% control of the new company, while Comcast owned 51%.[126][127]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.[128][129] It was also reported that Time Warner would be interested in placing a bid, until CEO Jeffrey L. Bewkes directly denied interest,[130] leaving Comcast the sole bidder. On November 1, 2009, The New York Times reported Comcast had moved closer to a deal to purchase NBC Universal and that a formal announcement could be made sometime the following week.[131]

Following a tentative agreement on December 1,[132] 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 on December 3.[133][134][135] GE would take over the remaining 49% stake in NBC Universal, using $5.8 billion to buy out Vivendi's 20% minority stake in NBC Universal.[134] On January 18, 2011, the FCC approved the deal by a vote of 4 to 1.[136][137] The sale was completed on January 28, 2011.[138][139] In late December 2012, Comcast added the NBC peacock symbol to their new logo.[140] On February 12, 2013, Comcast announced an intention to acquire the remaining 49% of General Electric's interest in NBCUniversal,[141][142] which Comcast completed on March 19, 2013.[13][14][143]

Failed purchase of Time Warner Cable

On February 12, 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported that Comcast sought to acquire Time Warner Cable in a deal valued at $45.2 billion.[144] On February 13, it was reported that Time Warner Cable agreed to the acquisition.[145] This was to 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.[146]Time Warner Cable and Comcast aimed to merge into one company by the end of 2014 and both have praised the deal, emphasizing the increased capabilities of a combined telecommunications network, and to "create operating efficiencies and economies of scale".[147]

In 2014, critics expressed concern that the deal would give Comcast greater negotiating power in a number of areas, including rebroadcast fees with television channels,[148] and peering agreements with ISPs.[149]

Critics noted in 2013 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.[150][151] According to Politico, Comcast "donated to almost every member of Congress who has a hand in regulating it."[152] The US Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the deal on April 9, 2014.[153] The House Judiciary Committee planned its own hearing.[154] On March 6, 2014, the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division confirmed it was investigating the deal.[155] In March 2014, the division's chairman, William Baer, recused himself because he was involved in the prior Comcast NBCUniversal acquisition.[156] Several states' attorneys general have announced support for the federal investigation.[157] On April 24, 2015, Jonathan Sallet, general counsel of the F.C.C., said that he was going to recommend a hearing before an administrative law judge, equivalent to a collapse of the deal.[158]

In August 2015, Comcast announced to speed up Internet for low income customers from 5 megabits per second (mbps) to 10 Mbit/s, provide free wireless routers, and will pilot an initiative to increase Internet access for low-income senior citizens.[159] In September of that year Comcast also launched Watchable, a YouTube competitor.[160] The move was seen by Variety as an attempt to appeal to the cord cutting market.[160]

DreamWorks Animation

In April 2016, Comcast confirmed that its NBCUniversal division would acquire DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion.[161][162] The deal closed on August 22, 2016.[163]Universal Pictures will take over distribution of DreamWorks Animation films beginning in 2019 with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World when DreamWorks Animation's deal with 20th Century Fox expires.

Cellular service

In September 2016, Comcast confirmed that it had reached a partnership with Verizon Wireless to launch a cellular network as an MVNO. The new service, described as being a "Wi-Fi and MVNO-integrated product", and was expected to launch in mid-2017.[164] The partnership and the addition of wireless would allow Comcast to offer a quadruple play of services.[165][166] Including Comcast's Home Security offering, customers now have the option of a Quintuple Play.[167] The service was officially announced on April 6, 2017, as Xfinity Mobile.[168]

Attempted acquisition of 21st Century Fox

On November 16, 2017, it is reported that Comcast attempted to purchase 21st Century Fox, following the news 10 days earlier that The Walt Disney Company negotiated with Fox to acquire the same assets. Like Disney, the deal included 20th Century Fox, cable entertainment and broadcast satellite networks including FX Networks, National Geographic Partners, Fox Sports Networks, and international channels such as Star India and Sky plc. It would not include the Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox Television Stations, Fox Sports, and Fox News units, all which will be spun-off into a new independent company.[169]

However, on December 11, 2017, Comcast officially dropped the bid, saying that "We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer."[170] On December 14, Disney officially confirmed its acquisition of 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion in stock, pending review from the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division.[171]

On February 5, 2018, a new report by CNBC claims that despite the Disney/Fox deal, Comcast is considering topping Disney's $52.4 billion offer once the AT&T-Time Warner merger goes through, after the Department of Justice Antitrust Division sued to block the merger on November 20, 2017.

On May 7, 2018, Comcast announced a potential bid against Disney's effort to acquire Fox after it spoke to investment banks about making a $60 billion cash offer, pending on approval of the AT&T-Time Warner merger.[172] On May 15, several Fox investors expressed interests in inking a deal with Comcast due to their all-cash offer as opposed to Disney's $52.4 billion stock offer.[173] On June 13, Comcast officially announced a $65 billion counter-offer to acquire the 21st Century Fox's assets that Disney offered to purchase.[174]

However, on June 20, 2018, Disney and Fox announced that they had amended their previous merger agreement, upping Disney's offer to $71.3 billion (a 10% premium over Comcast's $65 billion offer), while also offering shareholders the option of receiving cash instead of stock.[175] On June 27, the United States Department of Justice gave antitrust approval to Disney under the condition of selling Fox's 22 regional sports channels, to which the company has agreed.[176] On the next day, Disney and Fox shareholders scheduled July 27, 2018 as the day to vote on Fox's properties being sold to Disney, giving Comcast enough time to make a higher counter-offer for the assets of Sky.[177][178]

However, on July 12, 2018, the Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal with the D.C. Circuit to reverse the District Court's approval for AT&T acquisition of Time Warner (now WarnerMedia). Although analysts say that the chances of the DOJ win are small, they say it is the "final nail in the coffin for Comcast's Fox chase. This is a clear gift to Disney"[179] On the next day, CEO of AT&T Randall Stephenson gave an interview with CNBC, about Comcast's bid for Fox: "It probably can't help it. You're in a situation where two entities are bidding for an asset, and this kind of action can obviously influence the outcome of those actions."[180]

On July 16, 2018, CNBC reported that Comcast was unlikely to continue its bidding war to acquire Fox from Disney in favor of Sky.[181] On July 19, 2018, Comcast officially announced that it was dropping its bid on the Fox assets in order to focus on their bid for Sky. CEO of Comcast, Brian L. Roberts said "I'd like to congratulate Bob Iger and the team at Disney and commend the Murdoch family and Fox for creating such a desirable and respected company."[182]

Acquisition of Sky

On February 27, 2018, Comcast offered to purchase 61% stake in Sky plc at a value of £12.50 per-share, approximately £22.1 billion. 21st Century Fox, which owns 39% stake in Sky, had previously declined a US$60 billion acquisition offer by Comcast in favour of its deal with Disney, due to anti-competition concerns.[183][184][185] NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke stated that purchasing Sky would roughly double its presence in English-speaking markets, and allow for synergies between the respective networks and studios of NBCUniversal and Sky. Fox stated that it "remains committed to its recommended cash offer for Sky", and that Comcast had not yet made a "firm offer".[186]

On April 12, the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers ruled that Disney had to acquire all of Sky within 28 days of fully acquiring Fox if the latter's acquisition of Sky is not completed by the time the merger is done, or if Comcast's counter-offer isn't accepted.[187] On April 25, 2018, Comcast made its formal counter-bid for Sky plc, offering £12.50 per-share; Sky subsequently withdrew its recommendation of the Fox bid.[188] On June 5, 2018, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock cleared both 21st Century Fox and Comcast's respective offers to acquire Sky plc. Fox's offer is contingent on the divestiture of Sky News.[189][190]

On June 15, 2018, the European Commission gave antitrust clearance to Comcast's offer to purchase Sky, citing that in terms of their current assets in Europe, there would be limited impact on competition. Comcast included a 10-year commitment to the operations and funding of Sky News similar to that of Disney's offer.[191][192][193] On June 19, 2018, Disney formally agreed to acquire Sky News as part of Fox's proposed bid, with a 15-year commitment to increase its annual funding from £90 million to £100 million.[194]

On July 11, 2018, 21st Century Fox raised its bid to purchase Sky plc assets to $32.5 billion, and $18.57 a share. In response, Comcast increased its bid to $34 billion, and $19.5 a share. At the same time, Fox was given clearance by the British government to purchase Sky.[195][196] On July 18, 2018, Bloomberg reported that the Sky board scheduled July 27, 2018 as the day shareholders vote on selling Sky properties.[197]

On September 22, 2018, Comcast outbid 21st Century Fox, by raising its bid for Sky plc to $40 billion, or $22.57 a share.[198] On September 25, 2018, Comcast has bought 30% stake of Sky plc.[199] The next day on September 26, 2018, Fox with the consent of its acquirer sold its 39% stake to Comcast in exchange for $15 billion in cash.[200] In October 2018 Comcast later acquired the rest of the shares of the Sky with the company being dislisted in November.[201] The merger closed on November 7 with the company being dislisted after becoming a wholly owned subsidiary and division of Comcast.[202]

Divisions and subsidiaries

Comcast Cable (Xfinity)

Comcast Cable is the cable television division of Comcast Corporation, providing cable television, broadband internet, and landline telephone under the Xfinity brand. Comcast Cable also provides connections to small to medium-sized business through its Comcast Business brand, and Fortune 1000 companies through its Comcast Enterprise brand.[203]

NBCUniversal

Comcast delivers third-party television programming content to its own customers, and 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, Syfy, and USA Network. On May 19, 2009, Disney and ESPN announced an agreement to allow Comcast Corporation to carry the channels ESPNU and ESPN3.[204] 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.[205] These plans were then put on hold by the U.S. Olympic Committee.[206] The U.S. Olympic Committee and Comcast have ended the plans to create The U.S. Olympic Network.[207]

Comcast's content networks and assets also include E!, Oxygen, Golf Channel, NBCSN, Universal Kids, Bravo, 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.

DreamWorks Animation

On April 28, 2016, NBCUniversal bought DreamWorks Animation, along with its major IPs including Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, and Madagascar.[208][209][210][211]

Professional sports

In 1996, Comcast bought a controlling stake in Spectacor from the company's founder, Ed Snider.[212] Comcast Spectacor holdings now include the Philadelphia Flyers NHL hockey team and their home arena in Philadelphia. Over a number of years, Comcast became majority owner of Comcast SportsNet, as well as Golf Channel and NBCSN (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 became the sponsor of NASCAR's second tier series renaming it the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2015.

Venture capital

Comcast founded its first venture capital fund in January 1999, as Comcast Interactive Capital.[213] Around 2011, following the 2009 NBC Universal acquisition, Comcast Interactive Capital was merged with The Peacock Equity Fund, the venture capital subsidiary of NBCUniversal.[214] The combined company, Comcast Ventures, is led by Amy Banse as Head of Funds [215] and backs various companies such as FanDuel[216] and Vox Media,[217] for example.

Criticism and controversy

Comcast service van, Ypsilanti Township, Michigan

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.[218] 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."[219][220]

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 was the second time Comcast had been awarded this title, the first being in 2010.[221]

Comcast spends millions of dollars annually on lobbying.[222][223] Comcast employs the spouses, sons and daughters of mayors, councilmen, commissioners, and other officials to assure its continued preferred market allocations.[224][225][226]

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.[227]

On August 1, 2016, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against cable television and Internet giant Comcast Corporation in King County Superior Court, alleging the company's own documents reveal a pattern of illegally deceiving their customers to pad their bottom line by tens of millions of dollars.[228] The FCC issued a $2.3 million fine to Comcast after finding that the company was charging customers for unordered services and equipment. More than a thousand customers issued complaints about these unprecedented charges to their bill. In addition, numerous customers reported inappropriate name-calling and interrogation by customer service representatives. Comcast's executive vice president, David Cohen, admitted the company needed to improve their customer service.[229]

On August 8, 2016 an official Comcast employee confirmed that Comcast was changing native 1080i channels to the 720p60 format. "Official Employees are from multiple teams within Comcast: Product, Support, Leadership."[230]

In February 2017, Comcast was ordered by the self-regulatory National Advertising Review Board to cease using a claim based on Speedtest.net data that it has "America's fastest internet", stating that "Ookla's data showed only that Xfinity consumers who took advantage of the free tests offered on the Speedtest.net website subscribed to tiers of service with higher download speeds than Verizon FiOS consumers who took advantage of the tests." They were also ordered to stop using a claim that the company offers the "fastest in-home Wi-Fi", which was poorly substantiated.[231]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ 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 December 7, 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 Archived March 25, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.).

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