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For Comcast, Online Advertising May Be Next Big Play

When Comcast chief Brian Roberts runs into fellow media moguls at Sun Valley this week, he might feel a little defeated. He was forced to abandon the takeover of Time Warner Cable in the face of regulatory opposition, while rival AT&T is expected to complete its DirecTV purchase and surpass Comcast as the biggest pay TV operator.

Meanwhile, long-time rival John Malone looks likely to succeed in his takeover of TWC, re-emerging as a major player in U.S. cable.

But the failure of Comcast’s TWC deal may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Given steadily declining pay TV subscribers and rising programming costs industry-wide, not to mention regulatory control of broadband, cable will become a much tougher business. Mr. Malone and AT&T may well come to regret the pricey deals they’re about to do.

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For now, Comcast is giving little indication of its plans, other than its continued focus on the nuts and bolts of the cable business. Investors likely hope it buys back more stock (Comcast shares have risen since the TWC deal fell apart). But stock buybacks are the ultimate defeatist strategy. If Comcast wants to keep growing, it has to do something more innovative.

– Amir Efrati contributed to this story

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Comcast is not going to signal where they’re going…but Comcast didn’t buy FreeWheel and Visible World along with Strata and thePlatform for convenience.