Support Marketplace

Comcast CEO: "We reinvent ourselves every couple years"

Download the Marketplace Reader for your iPhone or iPad. Android version in development.

Updated on Thursday, February 13, 2014: Comcast CEO Brian Roberts announced a $45 billion deal to buy rival Time Warner Cable. Roberts told CNBC he was confident the deal will be approved by federal regulators, despite concerns about the country's two largest cable operators merging.


Few CEOs today can say they’re running the company their father started. Fewer still can say they’ve turned their father's cable company into a thriving media conglomerate. But Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, can.

Comcast/NBC Universal celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013. Brian Roberts became the CEO in 2002 – his father, Ralph Roberts founded the company in 1963.

"It's an exciting time. Technology is changing everything really fast," says CEO Roberts, acknowledging Comcast’s many iterations. "By probably next year, we will have more broadband connections to people's homes than cable connections and we started as a cable company."

Roberts sees that as a positive: "The beauty of this business is, we reinvent ourselves every couple years," he says.

For our Conversations from the Corner Office series, we asked Roberts about the inner workings of his business:

What's more important: The pipes or the content?

"We hope we will, five years from now, have compelling programming, compelling choices, compelling sports, compelling television on all these devices and you’ll say, of course I want to buy their triple play and it’s a great deal because they also offer me a telephone and home security and energy management and wherever we go next during that five years."

"The key for us is to move quickly, to have a company that feels like a 50 year old start up, that feels young," he adds.

How does he answer criticisms about the company’s customer service?

"What unfortunately happens is we have about … 350 million interactions with consumers a year, between phone calls and truck calls. It may be over 400 million and that doesn't count any online interactions which I think is over a billion. You get one-tenth of one-percent bad experience, that's a lot of people – unacceptable. We have to be the best service provider or in the end, this company won't be what I want it to be."

Conversations from the Corner Office:
Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal goes one-on-one with leaders from some of the world's great companies to talk about what drives them, what their passions are, how they look at the world and how they put it all together in a way that adds up to success. Download the app

What does he draw from his family's history with the company?

Roberts says the company has benefited by being a family-business.

"My dad's 93. He comes to work ... he says [all this new technology] is crazy stuff and I can't believe it but let's keep going ... Changing a company that's 50 years old and keeping the culture of a founder is what I think my job's all about."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

Download the Marketplace Reader for your iPhone or iPad. Android version in development.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...