PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: CEO has media savvy down to the letter

PHILADELPHIA: Just when you thought epistolary art was dead, along came Comcast president and CEO Brian Roberts, who recently showed how a well-wrought letter - and a well-timed leak - can make waves, even in the hi-tech frontiers of today's media business.

PHILADELPHIA: Just when you thought epistolary art was dead, along came Comcast president and CEO Brian Roberts, who recently showed how a well-wrought letter - and a well-timed leak - can make waves, even in the hi-tech frontiers of today's media business.

Last week's news of Comcast's planned hostile takeover of Disney came with Roberts' message to Disney CEO Michael Eisner, wherein Roberts described Eisner's thumbs-down to the proposal as "unfortunate." Roberts also saw fit to lay out just what kind of opportunities Disney's shareholders would be missing out on if the $66 billion stock swap doesn't happen - namely, a premium of over $5 billion for Mouse shareholders and ownership of about 42% of the combined company. Not too shabby, but it gets even better when you consider the clear subtext - Roberts' suggestion that Eisner's rebuff is keeping Disney from keeping up with the snowballing media giants News Corp. and Time Warner. Both Time Warner and Murdoch's empire own both content and distribution companies, meaning they have a hand in some of the best-known news and entertainment content from creation to consumption. While Disney's slate of properties - ABC, ESPN, and the Disney and Miramax movie studios - are nothing to sniff at, the thought of them being combined with the nation's largest cable operator is breathtaking. As The New York Times put it, "If successful, Comcast's audacious bid would reshape the entertainment landscape, creating a new media behemoth that would combine the power of Comcast's powerful distribution channels to some 21 million subscribers in the nation with Disney's vast library of content and production assets." The effectiveness of Roberts' letter is that it's focused on these possibilities, not just the boon it would be to Comcast. "Together, as an integrated distribution and content company, we will be best positioned to meet our respective competitive challenges," he wrote. While it ain't Vincent writing to Theo, the Dear Michael letter does the trick, and for that it wins PR Play of the Week.

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