It ain’t over. Ralph Roberts’ lifetime of achieving and a little more achieveing to add on to the successes.
Comcast clearly is the lead company in cable. And, while Ralph doesn’t run anything day to day now, his influence shows in most everything son Brian and company do. And in that sparkling new office tower in Philadelphia we have a two-story establishment called Ralph’s Café. Very fitting. And top of mind, or at least head, is hat worn around Comcast with the letters WWRD. It means "What Would Ralph Do?" Again, a nice touch and a guiding light.
So it’s really good to see Ralph out and about. Always with a gleam in his eye, a nudge in the back and a big smile when you greet him. And a nice bit of talk about the industry. Cable’s patriarch and Comcast’s co-founder was walking the aisles in New Orleans in May, with that gleam and that smile.
[Following are excerpts from an interview, a chat, really, between our Paul Maxwell and Ralph Roberts from May 2006. The full interview can be found at: cable360.net/cablefaxmag/operators/msos/16191.html.]
Paul Maxwell: Someone mentioned that you have a collection of bow ties approaching 100 or so.
Ralph Roberts: Yes I do. I sort of got into wearing them. I have well over 100 four-in-hand ties, if you’d like to have some….
PM: [laughter] As you grew [Comcast] did it seem like you were the tortoise and the other guys were the hare?
RR: Not really. I think a lot has to do with good luck. And I think if you have a long-range objective and you stick with it through thick and thin, and if you happen to have been right in the first place, you come out ahead.
PM: Why did it take so long to do programming ventures?
RR: Well, I think we were under the belief, and still are, that distribution is critical to success, and the first thing to do was get distribution. Then, of course, you want programming to put over it, which is what we’re doing. And you’re almost assured of success because we have the capability of putting it through a lot of outlets.
PM: The combined revenue [of the telcos] dwarfs our business. How do we turn the tables on them?
RR: I think the cable people have to join forces somewhere.
PM: Can we do that anymore?
RR: The bottom line is they’ll have to find a way. The common denominator is the customer, the subscriber. And if we can give the best service and give good products and even better products, then I think we’re going to be OK.
PM: What is the next big opportunity for cable?
PM: What will be your legacy in this business?
RR: Well I really don’t see any legacy. I just think I was fortunate to have gotten in the business in the first place.
PM: I think we all were fortunate on that.
RR: I believed in it enough that you go out and borrow money and buy systems. I think one of the main things I really appreciated was the culture of the company.
PM: Well that’s got to be a reflection of you.
RR: Well, it’s everybody. The feeling is that it’s a family. And as it got bigger and bigger it became harder to keep that going, but I still want people to feel that they belong and that they are as important as the guy next to them.