This week in Comcast: The strategy behind the $500M Snap investment

Comcast has been rolling out announcements this past week, but one story snapped up more headlines than the rest.

CNBC broke the news Friday that the Philadelphia-based company was a major investor in tech company Snap’s IPO prior to public trading — to the tune of $500 million. The combination of the Snap investment, the $400 million Comcast has invested in millennial-focused news site BuzzFeed and $200 million in video-focused Vox media over the past two years spurred heighten speculation about the path Comcast is laying out for itself in digital media.

In a letter to employees, posted by Recode, NBCUniversal head Steve Burke rattled off a host of other investments they’ve made in OTT channels, movie-focused digital sites and more totaling $1.5 billion in digital businesses in the past 18 months.

The investment strategy isn’t just to buy up the hottest media companies out there and bring them under the Comcast wing like previous, sometime failed media mergers. It’s to buy in – with sizable investments and strategic partnerships with benefits for both companies.

“An increasing percentage of video consumption around the world is going to be on these platforms,” Burke told the Los Angeles Times. “There are a handful of big platforms, and Snapchat is the fastest growing. We need to program for that and take our existing programs and format them for these platforms.”

A media and tech company advisor, Peter Csathy, told the news outlet that NBCUniversal is “the most aggressive of U.S. media companies in terms of strategic investment.” Burke went further into that strategy in the report, comparing it to Microsoft’s $1 billion investment in Comcast in 1997 for broadband infrastructure upgrades, which helped fuel both the Internet, and Microsoft’s, growth.

That showed Microsoft valued the worth Comcast could bring to the table, he said, and they see the same with Snap.

“We think we are going to make money on our investments in Snapchat, BuzzFeed and Vox,” Burke told the Times. “As importantly, our investments make it clear to our people that these are special companies and we want to work closely with them and learn from them.”

Here are some other highlights from Comcast's busy week:

  • Could Comcast and Sprint be the next major merger in the continually melding telecomm industry? A New York Times report on Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank and chairman of Sprint, dives into the possibilities ahead in the industry, including what to expect in the industry under a Trump administration.
  • Comcast took its stake in Universal Studios Japan to the next level last week, when it announced it will be buying the remaining 49 percent ownership of the Osaka theme park. Comcast spent $1.5 billion to purchase a 51 percent stake in the park in 2015 as it was in the midst of a revenue upswing fueled by the 2014 opening of the park’s Wizarding World of Harry PotterHarry Potter-themed attractions have helped fuel the continued success Comcast has seen at its Universal theme parks in both Hollywood and Orlando. The Orlando Business Journal, a sister paper to the Philadelphia Business Journal, has more on how the buyout will strengthen Universal properties there.
  • As Comcast’s second skyscraper continues to rise,the company finally provided more details about the tech accelerator that will be housed on its fourth floor. The company, which has been expanding its involvement with both local and national tech entrepreneurs in recent years, announced Monday it will be launching its NBCUniversal LIFT Labs for Entrepreneurs at the new Comcast Technology Center when it opens in 2018. Global accelerator network Techstars will run the Philadelphia LIFT Lab. A second LIFT Lab is scheduled to open in Atlanta, but details of its launch or potential accelerator partners have yet to be announced.
  • Monday was a big day for Comcast news, as the company also announced it’s expanding its partnership with a Connecticut-based energy retailer that allows the companies to use each others technology to build an integrated platform for service providers.
  • Heads up baseball fans, the YES network will be finally back on the roster for Comcast customers in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey after a dispute over programming fees caused a more than year-long blackout. The two parties came to an agreement after negotiations in January. The network, and its Yankees games, will be back on March 31, just in time for opening day.

Every week, the Philadelphia Business Journal will comb through everything Comcast to bring you a recap of the Philadelphia-based broadcast giant's week in the news.