Friday, August 22, 2014
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Comcast VC boss: Why I left Philly for San Francisco

"Fly back to Philadelphia and the momentum would immediately die," says Amy Banse, of her attempts to hold the attention of Facebook, Google and Twitter

Comcast VC boss: Why I left Philly for San Francisco

Comcast's Amy Banse has left the company's Philly headquarters for San Francisco to run the video giant's newly-consolidated venture-capital and private-investments arm. Banse tells Business Insider about the move here. Some highlights:

San Francisco vs Philly: "You can fly in and have lots of great and exciting conversations with Facebook and Google and Twitter, where you would leave sort of thinking 'gosh, there are all kinds of things we could do together.'... But the problem is, you fly back to Philadelphia and the momentum would immediately die. Because people are busy out here, they've got their hands full... I've been head over heels in love with (San Francisco) for the last 25 or 30 years, and I've been totally drinking the California Kool-Aid."

TV vs Internet: "There were a lot of dire predictions that with the increasing use of the Internet, people would watch television less. The opposite is true - research shows that the number of hours the TV is on in a household is increasing" as users multitask: "They're watching TV with their laptop, smartphone, or iPhone... The venture guys and the NBC side of the house see that as a huge opportunity, that gives us an opportunity to extend the content and extend the engagement with our fanbase."

The tech elite is post-TV: "I was at a small seminar recently, there must have been about 75 of the best and brightest of Silicon Valley. The guy who was leading the morning discussion, the first thing he did was ask everybody how they start their day... There were a lot of 'Google Analytics' and 'Flipboard'... I said, 'well, I actually start my day the way 80% of Americans start their day: I turn on the TV'... A lot of people out here are so caught up in the phenomenon of social network marketing that they forget the power of a mention on the Today Show'." (Is this the techies' problem - or Comcast's?)

Digital enhancements: "If you are '30 Rock' or 'Real Housewives,' how can you extend that engagement past the traditional 30 minutes or 60 minutes of TV? You do it by creating second-screen experiences" and by supporting "new providers of packages of content... Five years from now, all of us, each of us, will be sourcing content from multiple digital providers."

Investment focus: "It's not a surprise we look a lot at digital media. We look at lot at commerce, which we can support with our cable networks and our 25 million subscribers. We look a lot at interactive ad and ad tech. We are among the largest advertisers in the country between cable and NBC... We've never been tied to the cable tech - cable infrastructure world, but for obvious reasons we've done a lot in that category. We've always made it very clear that we are first and foremost a financial fund, not a strategic fund, in that we don't need an operating reason to do an investment."

What Comcast won't buy: "It's hard to convince (Comcast boss) Brian Roberts to buy a Flixster for $350 million when it has no revenue. So, that's when I woke up to the beauty of minority investing, and the ability to use a venture fund as a vehicle to partner early with companies that were interesting to us."

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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