Jeff Kagan: Is Comcast Ready for Disruptors?

Jeff Kagan  |

Image via The Cable Show/Flickr CC

Is Comcast ready for disruption? Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast (CMCSA) says he doesn’t see anything in the industry they don’t already have. On one hand, he must feel great about all he has accomplished. However, on the other hand a disruptor can quickly enter the industry and transform everything sending you from the top to the bottom very quickly. Is he also thinking of that scenario and protecting the company?

Disruptors often take current industry leaders by surprise. Is Comcast ready for the next disruptor that will challenge their company and the entire industry? This has already happened, time and time again in industry after industry. And in fact, it’s also happening in cable TV. Let me give you a few examples.

Examples of Disruptors Impacting Industry After Industry

A decade ago Blackberry (BBRY)

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and Nokia (NOK) were tops in wireless handsets. And a decade before that, Motorola led the way? Who leads today? None of these three. Today, Apple (AAPL) iPhone and Google (GOOGL) Android. That was two major disruptions in the smartphone space.

Another example. Back in the 1990’s Barnes & Noble (BKS) and Borders were the big booksellers. They put the small booksellers out of business. At that time, they were looked at as the bullies. That was chronicled in the movie “You’ve Got Mail”, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

However, they no longer lead. What happened? (AMZN) disrupted the bookselling business. Hell, has disrupted many industries ever since. Now, their new target is retail grocery with Wholes Foods.

What about eBooks like Kindle transforming the traditional book business? This impacts bookstores, publishers, authors and the entire industry. Same with music. Music files transformed the music business putting pressure on traditional companies, artists and workers.

Disruptors Disrupt, Period!

I can give you example after example, but I think you get the point. What we can conclude is this… disruptors, disrupt. Period.

That’s why comments like this from Roberts can and should be taken two ways. They are a good source of pride for all the work he and everyone at Comcast has done. However, this should also be a giant red flag warning signal to everyone involved with the company. Is Roberts and Comcast ready for the next disruptor? Because make no mistake, the next disruptor is coming. It always comes.

What is Next Disruptor in Cable TV?

Who is the next disruptor in cable TV? Well, that can come from anywhere. If we look at the industry today, we no longer call it cable TV. Today, we are starting to call it Pay TV. That includes IPTV, wireless TV, mobile TV and a widening variety of technologies and competitors.

Until the last few years, cable TV had no competition. They never learned how to compete. Why bother? However, today there are new technologies and new competitors, large and small, and they are all eating away at traditional cable TV market share.

I love what Roberts has done, turning Comcast from a small cable television provider to the largest and owner of NBC Universal as well. I love their move into high speed Internet and back into wireless.

However, with all that said, is Comcast ready for the next disruption? After all, disruptors disrupt. Either Comcast will disrupt themselves and their industry, or someone else will do it to them. And in fact, other companies are already starting to do just that.

Example, AT&T (T) acquired DirecTV and introduced DIRECTV NOW. They also introduced wireless TV or mobile TV. Something that is creating pressure at companies like Comcast, Charter (CHTR) and Verizon (VZ). That’s why they are planning to get into that business as well.

Any way you slice it, disruption will happen. It always does. The only question is, will Comcast be ready and will they continue to lead going forward. This is the kind of world we live in. Disruptors enter and transform an entire industry almost overnight. It has happened time and time again. Remember the iPhone, the first Ford Model T or the first airplane. They changed everything. And this will continue to happen, forever.

So, Brian Roberts can be proud of what he has accomplished. However, he should also realize his job is never done. The risk never lessens. It only intensifies. The more successful you are, the harder it is to stay there.

Competition always intensifies. Regulations always change. Technology always innovates. Competition always changes. All that is a giant opportunity and giant challenge for Comcast or any other company with an innovative and disruptive idea. Something Comcast and in fact every business faces, every day. So, is Comcast ready for disruption?

Jeff Kagan is an columnist. Kagan is a Wireless Analyst, Telecom Analyst, Industry Analyst, speaker and consultant. He follows wireless, wire line, telecom, Internet, cable TV, IPTV, Cloud, Mobile Pay, FinTech and communications technology. Email him at His web site is Follow him on Twitter @jeffkagan

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to:

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