Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) CEO Neil Smit spoke at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show as part of a keynote panel on innovation. In his remarks, Smit addressed some of the biggest concerns about the company, and shared some of where he sees it going in the future. Smit was candid and self-effacing in a room that was occasionally a bit hostile, especially when the issue of customer service came up.
Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) CEO John Chambers, who was also on the panel, praised Smit for how quickly he has been able to change his company as the market for cable and broadband services has evolved. He explained how Comcast's efforts to transform its business actually helped provide a road map for change for his own company.
"I had Neil's team from Comcast come in and share the changes [they] had made," he said. "Once the Comcast team started talking, then my own team said we need to be more like them. We need to move faster."
As the market for cable and Internet service continues to change, Smit acknowledged that his company would have to continue to evolve, as well.
Partnerships are key
Smit noted that the exchange of ideas with Cisco benefited his executives, as well. "We learned as much from the exchange of ideas as you did," he said. "Going forward in this dynamic environment, the partnerships are going to become more and more important and being agile in how you partner with companies, and who's doing what and what roles they are going to play."
Consumers drive change
"Innovate everything" tops Comcast's list of objectives for 2015, and Smit said that the quick pace of change is being driven by consumers' desires for immediate gratification. He cited Uber and Amazon's same-day-delivery efforts, along with his industry's on-demand offerings as examples of companies and products created to meet a public wanting faster and faster service.
"We need to adapt to that and build our systems and our processes and our networks to be able to offer that immediate gratification," he said.
Smit also said that Comcast has moved its systems into the cloud, which allows it to make changes faster. In the past, a new system or product offering required new hardware. Now, the company can respond to consumer demand faster with a cloud-based software solution.
"We can now move in days and weeks and months and years," he said. "We're putting out twice the number of products we did years ago."
The merger is still happening
Smit seemed a little reluctant to talk about his company's planned $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable (UNKNOWN:TWC.DL); but when pressed on the issue, he did comment on the deal.
"We think we can bring great new capabilities and products to the business," he said. "Time Warner is a fantastic company and we think it represents a great opportunity for us and the consumer."
David Kirkpatrick, founder, host and CEO of Techonomy, who was moderating the panel on which Smit was speaking, followed that statement by asking the Comcast Cable CEO, "Is it going to happen?"
"Absolutely," Smit responded.
Comcast knows where it must improve
Kirkpatrick also introduced the fact that Comcast is the nation's largest ISP, and said, "People don't have a terribly warm and fuzzy feeling toward their cable company." That brought laughs from the crowd, but Smit seemed to fully understand that his company has a consumer perception and a customer service problem.