American Cable Systems was started in 1963 by Ralph Roberts, Daniel Aaron and Julian Brodsky. At first, it served minor cable TV services, but in the same year that it was founded it bought a Tulepo
cable system with 1200 subscriber
s, paving the way for further acquisition
, with the aid of favorable market conditions (deregulation
, junk bonds
In 1969 American Cable Systems was renamed Comcast and incorporated in Philadlephia, Pennsylvania, becoming Comcast Corporation. By 1972 it had its first public stock offering on the NASDAQ, and by 1986 it had reached 1.2 million subscribers. Comcast also purchased a significant stake in QVC,
aka the Home Shopping Channel*a* home-shopping channel. Thank you yerricde.
Two years later, Comcast bought half of Storer Communications, increasing its subscriber count to over 2 million, making Comcast the fifth-largest cable provider in the United States. Then, Comcast diversified into the emerging mobile telecommunications market with the purchase of American Cellular Network Corporation, located in New Jersey and Delaware.
By 1995, multiple buyouts had boosted the cable consumer count up to 4.3 million, and Comcast bought a 57% stake, and assumed management, of QVC, then the worlds largest electronic retailer.
The next year, Comcast formed Comcast-Spectacor (not a misspelling, www.comcast-spectacor.com), a sports venture owning and operating the NHL Philadelphia Flyers, NBA Philadelphia 76ers, as well as the First Union Spectrum and the First Union Center. They also created Comcast SportsNet, a regional sports channel.
1997-1999 saw Comcast receiving a one billion(!) dollar investment from Microsoft, a stake in the E! Entertainment channel, over 1.5 million additional customers, and Comcast Cellular being sold to SBC Communications for $1.7 billion. Comcast and MediaOne announced but did not follow through with a 60 billion dollar merger.
In 2000 and 2001, Comcast acquired millions more consumers along the East Coast from Adelphia, AT&T and the acquisition of the Australian company Lenfest. Comcast also made a 44.5 billion dollar stock bid for AT&T's broadband arm. Of personal interest to me, Comcast received a significant portion of @Home's broadband subscribers, including yours truly. In early 2002 (hostnames changed from the ccxxxxxx-e.area.stateabbrev.home.com to pcpxxxxxxpcs.area.stateabbrev.comcast.net (the current format) between January 01 and January 15. If I remember correctly, February 28 was the cutoff date for salvaging your email (self.memory++)
Comcast recently had 20,000 employees and 8 million subscribers, making it the third-largest cable-services provider nationwide. Services include cable TV, Internet, and "digital services".
Finally, just today (November 13, 2002), the FCC approved the merger of Comcast and AT&T Broadband, paving the way for a hulking cable giant to commandeer the market. The combined companies will serve nearly 27 million cable customers, or almost 29% of the market. This merger was valued at
72 billion when it was announced last December.
Not only will the largest cable television company be formed, but the new super-company will be the largest cable Internet service provider in the world.
I can only comment on Comcast cable and their Internet packages. Of the latter, I have really no complaints but one: They switched their general-internet subnet mask from 255.255.255.0 (@Home's) to 255.255.254.0, thus rending my router useless and forcing me to get a new one.
In terms of the switch from @Home to Comcast, it was painless; almost no downtime for service, and the deluge of reminders that things were changing provided plenty of firewoodpulp, keeping the living room toasty during the harsh winter months.
Cable TV, however, has been pissing me off. Part of this is, I admit, not their fault at all, but it's still annoying that the sound portion of my TV is slowly committing suicide. Nonetheless, the part that does annoy me about Comcast's cable TV was the fact that they downgraded the basic package to NOT include things like The Learning Channel, Discovery, Animal Planet, Comedy Central (well, OK, that's only OCCASIONALLY fun, but it did have BattleBots). We also get really really shitty reception on the History Channel. Booooo!
WonkoDSane has pointed out my greivous oversight, that of COURSE cable packages vary from area to area. D'oh!
Why You Should Care
Well, Comcast provides fairly good cable TV/Internet services to the DelMarVa/NJ area at decent prices. It's not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than dialup....
Mainly, though, you should care about the merger. This new supercompany (should it ever actually occur) would wield incredible power in the cable arena, especially on the East Coast. This power could be such that Comcast could influence emerging technologies, or, perhaps worse, practice good ol' price inflation. AOL Broadband, for example, is actually carried out over Comcast's lines. This is, as they say, Not Good.
Oh, right... You should also care because if you do, maybe you'll give me sweet, sweet upvotes. Mmmmm. Yummy upvotes.