Comcast Corp. isn't seeing many signs of an economic
recovery, but one bright exception is advertising. Speaking at the American
Association of Advertising Agencies annual get-together in San Francisco on March 2, Comcast COO Steve
Burke said, "We survived a near-death experience a year ago and people haven't
really recovered, but the one place it has recovered is advertising."
Burke addressed a crowd of around 1,000 executives from ad
agencies and marketing and media companies, telling them, "I think we'll see a
real resurgence in TV advertising. As
you start to see pricing get better, you'll start to see new people come into
the market. Addressability will make it more affordable, targetable and hence
more attractive. TV remains the best way to convince people to do something.
Our deal with NBC is a bet that the advertising business will remain robust."
Answering a question about progress at Canoe Ventures, Burke
responded that he was extremely excited about the future of interactive
advertising and that the delays at the organization were caused by the
plumbing. "That's what's taking the
time," he said. "It's not funding. We've spent $100 million. It's one of the
easiest checks we write because there is a huge opportunity."
Canoe Ventures, backed by six of the biggest cable operators
in the country, offers advertisers the promise of both interactivity and
addressability at scale across multiple cable systems.
As part of a sit-down interview with Michael Kassan, CEO of
media consultancy MediaLink, Burke went on to describe the big opportunity of creating
a cross-platform sell with NBC Universal and Comcast's cable channels. "We'll have the ability to say whether you
want cable or broadcast, national or local, local spot or cable spot. It
[cross-platform sales] has to be done carefully."
Burke also cited the ability to create packages focused on
women and sports. "One of the things we
looked at when we analyzed the deal was our ability to reach women. If you
combined Bravo, Oxygen, E! Entertainment, Today
Show, iVillage, Daily Candy, [you get] the ability to sit with one person
and say â€˜We can speak for an entire group of assets which target a certain age,
or a certain profile.' It's unsurpassed."
Burke revealed that the NBC network could be as big a brand
as any cable network. "I could see NBC trying to build on the Olympics and
create a brand filter for NBC, I think you'll see that."
When asked to play a word association game that included the
statement "Leno at 10," Burke's response was "over." He continued: "Everybody
is happy he's back where he was."
Since transformation was the theme of the conference, Burke
said companies had to be willing to take risks. "If you do nothing, the Internet will be your
He suggested CBS had missed a big opportunity in failing to
be in cable. "When cable was first
introduced, CBS said, â€˜We hope cable goes away.' Look at what CBS has today; it
has much less cable channel content than NBC, ABC or Fox. Places like ABC
embraced it, and you have ESPN and at NBC, MSNBC and Bravo. You only get in
trouble if you do nothing."