Q&A: Brian Roberts, Comcast chairman and CEO
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Brian Roberts, Comcast chairman and CEO
Roberts, 52, heads a Fortune 100 media and entertainment company whose interests include Golf Channel, hockey’s Philadelphia Flyers and NBCUniversal. The self-described “frustrated mid-to-high single-digit-handicapper” is the son of Comcast founder Ralph Roberts.
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How excited were you to get involved in the golf business via your acquisition of Golf Channel?
In the very beginning, it was not clear that Golf Channel would even make it, but we just celebrated our 15th anniversary. (Co-founders) Joe Gibbs and Arnold Palmer had this great idea, and Comcast was the first cable company to invest in the channel. My dad and I were with Arnold and Joe in Latrobe the day we went over 50 percent ownership. Mr. Palmer said, ‘I hope you take good care of my baby.’ In addition to everything he’s done for golf, he has given us a real legacy.
How is the PGA Tour different than other sports?
It’s obviously not the biggest audience, but the viewers are knowledgeable, passionate and willing to follow for hours and hours. When Thursday and Friday coverage moved to Golf Channel, it really took us to the next level. With the acquisition of NBCUniversal, we now have both networks, NBC Sports and the Golf Channel, working together.
Since acquiring NBC last year, you made a very large commitment for the Olympics. How difficult was that decision?
We had the Olympics, the NFL, the NHL and the PGA Tour all renew their contracts for a decade. We didn’t win the bidding for Wimbledon and Pac-12. The two biggest problems we faced coming into NBCUniversal were the recurring losses from the Olympics and NFL. We have now secured those wonderful franchises for another decade with financial models that are realistic and conservative, and we will break even or make a slight profit on them. So, we’ve not only kept the engine of viewership and passion, we’ve done so in a fiscally responsible way, which is what we’ve set out to do.