Comcast’s Roberts Denies OLN Is Preparing to Challenge ESPN

Aug 2, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts on Tuesday played down the suggestion the cable giant is looking to transform its cable channel OLN into a full-on competitor of ESPN.

“We are very proud with what happened with [OLN’s coverage of] the Tour de France, and it raised the question of where other events of a marquee nature could find a new home [at OLN],” said Mr. Roberts, speaking to analysts during a conference call to report second-quarter earnings. “I should just say that some of the speculation has frothed over. We are not taking on some other network directly.”

Speculation has swirled in the past few weeks that Comcast is looking to give OLN a programming boost in an effort to compete head-to-head with ESPN–something Comcast officials flatly denied they were doing.

“ESPN is in such a league of its own and has established such an amazing brand, it would be impossible for us to compete with ESPN,” said Comcast Chief Operating Officer Stephen Burke. “What we are trying to do is take Outdoor Life and add to it to make it a better channel.”

Separately, Comcast reported Tuesday that its second-quarter profit surged 64 percent to $430 million, from a year-earlier figure of $262 million. Revenue climbed 10.5 percent to $5.6 billion.

The gains came as Comcast reported increases in digital cable, high-speed data and telephone customers. Comcast said it added 284,000 digital cable subs, while losing 77,000 basic cable customers, which the company said was about flat from a year ago.

On the high-speed data front, Comcast added 297,000 customers and added 15,000 telephone customers during the period.