About a dozen tea party activists from the Philadelphia area gathered
outside the Kimmel Center on Wednesday -- site of Comcast Corp.'s annual
shareholders' meeting -- to protest the company's ownership of the
liberal-leaning MSNBC 24-hour cable news channel.
Inside the meeting, shareholders peppered Comcast chief executive officer Brian Roberts about the company's decision to ban local gun-shop advertisements. There were also complaints about the Rev. Al Sharpton, host of PoliticsNation on MSNBC.
Tom Borelli, senior fellow with the tea party group FreedomWorks, said Comcast risked losing conservative cable subscribers because of MSNBC, a unit of NBCUniversal.
"Conservatives can abandon your business," Borelli said.
Roberts, chairman of the 50-year-old company with more than $60 billion in annual revenue, said that Comcast outperformed other cable companies in the first quarter and that the cable industry supports a "diversity of voices."
Otherwise, the shareholders meeting was a calm affair. Roberts reviewed the company's 2012 accomplishments, which included adding 1.2 million Internet customers in 2012 -- the seventh year the company has added more than one million in a year -- and crossing the 10-million mark for phone customers.
Roberts disclosed that Comcast was launching new TV advertisements for its X1 cloud-based technology that is replacing its standard set-top boxes, and expanding WiFi in the homes.
Roberts added that business services continues to serve as a platform for growth -- the company has only about 10 percent of the small-business market. He estimates the total small-business market in Comcast's cable franchise area is from $20 billion to $30 billion.
Stephen Burke, the head of NBCUniversal, was down from New York for the meeting but did not speak. Roberts said Burke's entertainment division had "outstanding results" for the year.
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