A look at how one of the nation’s largest video, high-speed internet, and phone providers came to be shows just how far the communications (i.e., cable, satellite, telecommunications) sector has come. After all, the rich histories and legacies of many companies have made the industry what it is today.
Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast NBCUniversal, sat down for an interview with David Rubenstein to share how the company began, how it progressed, and what the future has in store.
Interestingly, Comcast was started by Brian’s father, Ralph Roberts. Ralph was a businessman and entrepreneur at heart. He made golf clubs and worked for Muzak, the company that supplied background music to retail stores. Ralph eventually worked for and then owned Pioneer Suspender Company. He sold the company when he believed Sansabelt, the maker of slacks that didn’t require belts or suspenders, had the technology that would put him out of business.
In 1963, a man approached Ralph and suggested he buy a community antenna television system (CATV) in Tupelo, Mississippi, where residents could not receive the CBS broadcast from Memphis. While Ralph had no clue where Tupelo was or what a CATV was, he decided to purchase the company anyway and put a community antenna on top of a mountain. As Brian puts it, “Those were the early roots of cable television.”
That same year, Ralph came up with the name Comcast. “Com” stood for communications, while “cast” stood for broadcasting. The vision was to merge the two and “be the future of communications and broadcasting.”
After purchasing the operator in Tupelo, Ralph began to purchase others. As the television business evolved through the 1980s and ESPN, CNN, and HBO became more “suburban and urban,” Comcast “stepped on the pedal” through consolidation, according to Brian. That consolidation enabled Comcast to have a much larger reach.
Television was free then, but people in Tupelo could now pay for better and more service. In Ralph’s eyes, the beauty of the business was its “subscription” nature. Recurring revenue was much more intriguing to Ralph than selling golf clubs, cologne, or suspenders.
The history of Comcast shows just how far the company and industry have come over the past 50 years. It illustrates how innovation has always been the backbone of the broadcast, cable, and telecommunications industries. It also exemplifies the dedication these companies have always had to creating a better customer experience.
Yet, in a world in which Amazon and Apple are some of the most beloved brands, communications companies like Comcast are now trying to emulate them. They understand the need to develop new, innovative products and services. They realize the importance of offering an incredible customer experience that attracts new customers and keeps existing ones coming back for more. They know they must offer impeccable customer service to prevent customer churn. These characteristics are no longer just “good business,” but are requirements for companies that wish to remain relevant. They are essential for long-term growth and increasing shareholder value.
Using the insights we’ve gleaned from conversations with clients, perspectives from industry executives, and statistics from market research reports, we have prepared a guide that describes the current state of the communications sector.
Use it as a barometer to measure the impact of your own activities and initiatives. How do you compare to your peers? Are you doing the right things? Should you adjust your strategy to remain or become an industry leader?
You can download it here or fill out the form below.