Keynote Address with David Cohen
Business Today's third and final Keynote address for the 41st annual Business Today International Conference came from David L. Cohen, Vice President for the Comcast Corporation. A widely diverse team, with ownership in cable to broadcasting, sports teams to websites, Comcast incorporates industry leaders from many different industries. And just as Comcast itself is so innovative, its leadership has to stay ahead of the curve and to match the rapidly evolving tech world. According to him, "It's no secret that the media world is at a state of rapid evolution. Everything we've shown has been in the category of traditional media, but not all, and that's certainly not true for all of Comcast. Combination of all these incredibly powerful assets has turbo charged the company in amazing ways. Incredibly exciting place to work particularly for young people. A unique place to be because these traditional media assets aren't going away, so Comcast is in the unique position of being on both sides, traditional and new media." But, for a company as large as Comcast, staying ahead of the curve can be more difficult than it sounds. Colleen Kang, Director of the Conference, sat down for a conversation with Cohen to discuss the logistics of managing such a large and diverse company, and just how important technology is for a company like Comcast. Here are some highlights, paraphrased for length :
Kang: "How, in particular, has Comcast been able to stay ahead of its competitors, especially with the more tech-central millennials?"
Cohen: A lot of people think of Comcast just as a cable company. Comcast is truly more a technology company than it is a cable company. It's more a high speed internet company than it is a cable company. The future of the company revolves around their 'new dna' as an innovation and technology company. At the intersection of media and technology people want to watch content on their terms. The average millennial will pick up a smartphone 221 times a day. The average millennial will watch hundreds of hours of content on their smartphones every month. We want to provide that content."
Kang: How do you see the future of Comcast? How does a business that's as big as Comcast deal with the problems of a changing marketplace, particularly over so many different industries?
Cohen: We have to continue to innovate. We have to be nimble. Some of the most important lessons we've gleaned from other industries is that you can't fight against the demands of a consumer because the consumer will surpass you. Especially when looking at the music industry, you can see that resisting against consumer demands can lead to a moment in which corporate leaders wake up one morning, and suddenly the consumer has surpassed them and their offerings. The key is to give consumers what they want and in the way they want to consume it. In this way, consumers are really the drivers of innovation as it's their demands that drive some of the greatest advancements in any industry. The truth is that even with Comcast's success, we're on top of the world that is a melting iceberg. We're not content. More and more people are getting their news in different ways than watching the nightly news at 6 o clock at night. Some of our acquisitions, like Vice and Buzzfeed, for example, are a way for us to have a front row seat to these new innovations. "My hope is that by continuing to invest out capital and our interest, we can continue to stay ahead of the curve"
Later, questions came from the attendees in the crowd:
Attendee, Princeton University: Is Netflix [and similar companies] a competitor for you and what does Comcast do to compete or work with them? More broadly, how do you view your competitors and how do you stay ahead in so many fields?
Cohen: They're both friend than enemy, but often more friend than enemy. They buy a huge amount of content from NBC, so they're a major contributor to our success. You can't use Netflix without high speed data. The quality of Netflix streaming is still better on wifi. Who provides the high speed service and the data connectivity with Netflix? We do. We have to be honest that one of the reasons that our high speed service continues to grow is because of Netflix. Netflix is more complementary to a cable service than it is a competitor. This is likely one of the major advantages of working at a company with as large a scope as Comcast is that while the company may compete with firms like Netflix in some areas, it can benefit immensely from a partnership with those same companies in others.
We were immensely pleased to have David Cohen join us for our final keynote speech for the 41st Business Today International Conference. His breadth of experience and the immense success of Comcast worldwide allowed him to enlighten and excite all conference attendees. He was able to answer deep and insightful questions ranging from Comcast's competitors, their innovative advantage, and even his favorite television show: Blindspot.