Peter Kafka

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Comcast Won’t Talk About NBCU, Will Talk About Internet Video

fancastWall Street has been displeased with Comcast (CMCSA) since news of its interest in NBC Universal broke in late September, and the company didn’t do much to mollify investors today: Executives refused to say much about the deal except to refer to reports of the deal as “rumors.” Silly, but expected.

Comcast did have reasonably good news to deliver this morning. It signed up more new customers than Wall Street expected, though it had to cut prices to do so. We’ll see if that mollifies investors, who really have been salty–look what’s happened to CMCSA shares since news of the GE (GE) transaction broke:

cmcsa shares

Since Comcast barely addressed the NBCU deal during its earnings call this morning, it had more time to tackle other topics. A recurring theme: How would increased Web video consumption affect the company?

The answer: No one knows, exactly.

On the one hand, there’s the threat that consumers will be less likely to pay for cable TV if they’re getting their shows over the Web, whether it’s through illegal streams or legitimate “over the top” services like the one Apple (AAPL) is trying to assemble.

That’s why Comcast CEO Brian Roberts described his company’s “authentication” efforts, which are in a beta test now but are scheduled to go nationwide next month, as an effort to make sure that people who consume Web video do so “in a way that secures the existing model.”

That is–he’d like them to keep paying Comcast for a TV subscription even though they’re watching shows online. Tough sell.

On the other hand, even if you stop paying for cable TV, you still have to pay someone to connect you to the Web, and it’s very likely that company will be Comcast. And if you’re not paying Comcast for TV, there’s a very good chance you’ll pay more for your Internet connection.

“I’ve been saying for a long time that I think video over the Internet is more friend than foe,” Roberts said this morning. Let’s see if Wall Street agrees.

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