Brian Roberts’ keynote presentation at the Bear Stearns confab was a rather abrupt about-face on Disney [DIS]. The Comcast [CMCSA] chief said while he believes the marriage of Comcast’s digital plant and the Mouse’s vast content library would flourish in an on-demand world, the acquisition wasn’t a "must have." The distribution of Disney product over the MSO’s vast network would conceivably "create value at a faster rate for both companies," Roberts said, but that was the extent of his endorsement. "Is it something we have to do? No." In contrast, Roberts characterized Comcast’s AT&T Broadband grab—a bid that was also initially rebuffed—as crucial. It tripled the size of the company and gave it a foothold in previously untapped markets. It was also a fast success, as the legacy AT&T systems improved every major operations metric during the course of a year, including cash flow; there was also a stunning reversal of basic sub losses (from – 415K in ’02 to +140K in ’03). Roberts declared Comcast’s commitment to cable at "150%;" the MSO merely struck when the opportunity arose. "If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, life goes on," Roberts concluded. "We’re going to continue to focus on our core business. … We’re not going to do anything to distract ourselves." In any event, Comcast will not raise its bid, he said. Following Roberts’ presentation, Comcast stock dipped about 1.5%, to $30/share. Disney shares fell less than 1%, closing at $26.24.

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