from the own-worst-enemy dept
That's why it was pretty interesting to watch such a master of spin candidly acknowledge that Comcast has only itself to blame for Netflix's rise as an Internet video powerhouse. Calling Netflix the company's "ultimate frenemy" at a recent telecom conference, Cohen admitted that streaming services like Netflix were a self-inflicted gunshot wound, created in large part because the cable ecosystem charges way too much money for its services:
"While Cohen sees Netflix as a complement to Comcast’s cable offering, he acknowledges that streaming services, especially those that offer slimmer video packages like Sling TV and Sony PlayStation Vue, could potentially be more attractive to price-conscious consumers. "Part of this is a self-inflicted wound," Cohen said. “We have made video too expensive."A cable or broadcast executive admitting they've refused to compete on price is a rare animal indeed, and even more rare from a legendary obfuscationist like Cohen. Normally, Comcast has downplayed their slow quarterly hemorrhaging of video subscribers, while Netflix, in contrast, added 3.3 million subscribers last quarter alone. Like most cable execs, the folks at Comcast are so used to a pampered duopoly, they see price competition as a vile alien abomination, justified in part by the millions of consumers that continue to pay an arm and a leg for bloated, over-priced lineups of unwatched channels.
These executives also honestly believe their inflexible legacy empires are able to out-innovate price competition by releasing abysmal "me too" products. Products like Comcast's recently launched and widely-ridiculed "Stream" platform, which is laden with so many caveats as to make it largely irrelevant in full competitive context.
Of course Cohen also got to the modern meat of the issue, reminding attendees at one point that no matter how large Netflix gets, it still needs to come through Comcast to get to its customers:
"Cohen added while some fear that more Netflix customers means less cable customers, he reminded the audience that reliable broadband is a crucial element of the streaming service. “Remember, you can’t get Netflix without broadband service,” Cohen said. “Those are 3 million customers of our broadband service."And that's the rub. At the end of the day, Comcast still intends to grab its pound of flesh one way or the other, whether that's by forcing Netflix to pay direct interconnection fees, or by slowly expanding the company's usage cap and overage fee trials and hoping nobody notices. Either way, Comcast will continue to do absolutely everything in its power to avoid having to compete on price for as long as humanly possible. But as they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.