Thursday, December 18, 2014

What does Comcast do for Philadelphia?

David L. Cohen explains

What does Comcast do for Philadelphia?

Comcast is the lone "Fortune 50" company now based in Philadelphia, executive VP David L. Cohen reminded builders and investors at the Urban Land Institute's Union League conclave this morning.

What's that do for the city? Among other things:

The company employs 3,800 in Philadelphia, who pay millions in wage and income taxes, Cohen noted. (That's almost 1% of the Center City office workforce. By comparison, the University of Pennsylvania and its hospitals, the city's biggest private employer, employs around 30,000. Cohen heads Penn's trustee board.)

There's Comcast's 58-story headquarters above Suburban Station, whose addition to the Philadelphia skyline has not reduced Center City office occupancy beyond previous levels, dispelling fears it would leave other buildings vacant, Cohen said.

There are, to be sure, many Comcast operations now headquartered outside Philadelphia, Cohen noted: the NBC and cable network offices in New York, Connecticut and North Jersey; the Universal theme parks in Florida, where sales are up thanks to Harry Potter attractions; the Universal film studios in California, where Cohen says he's fought one of the toughest land-use battles of his career to get an additional Harry Potter attraction approved.

So what's still in Philly? Besides the headquarters group and regional servicing groups, "at the Comcast Center we have over 600 engineers working, many of them involved in R&D," Cohen said.

"Innovation created in Philadelphia," by those engineers, includes Comcast's Xfinity TV apps for iPads, iPhones, Android phones (4 million downloads to date among Comcast's 21 million customers); Xfinity Wifi; AnyPlay smartpone video controls; Streampix, "our Netflix-like competitor" that plans to triple its current 20,000-movie collection; ConstantGuard computer security; Xfinity Home, Comcast's cable-based home-security service; X1 Platform, currently available in Georgia and Boston, which makes it easier to locate programming via smartphone; Xfinity TV on XBox 360: "You can watch the entire Comcast on Demand network... through your XBox." Cohen said. "All created in Philadelpha in just the last two or three years."

He added, "I hope you have a sense of pride that it is a Philadelphia company that is the custodian of all these iconoic brands... The impact we can have as a result of all these voices is incredible."

At the same time, Cohen said he's often called on to defend Comcast's role as purveyor of programming like the Kardashian sisters' television series, noting they enjoy high ratings: "We're in the business of giving people, to some extent, what they want to see."

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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