Karen Heller: Disneyfication of Comcast

Believe our own TV titan can be fun? Then this former swampland in Florida is for you.

Posted: June 05, 2011

Media giant Comcast is mulling a dive into the enchanting world of theme parks.

I, for one, say go for it.

The Philadelphia cable company maintains a public profile that is as dull as it is mammoth, a supersized, cost-efficient (for it!) American-cheese hoagie with a slathering of Miracle Whip. Remember, this is the business whose most creative programming is confined to the headquarters' lobby.

On NBC, 30 Rock's parody of its corporate overlord, renamed Kabletown, isn't far off the mark. "K stands for the Kindness we show our customers," the faux website promises, "the Keen interest we take in their needs."

Casting Ken Howard as the massive-but-dull Kabletown chief, Hank Hooper, also seems spot on. Hooper's great technology concept is to institute a black bar on television screens that "would allow parents to erase racy content, like soccer or a woman stuffing a turkey."

Comcast faces a buy-or-lose-it deadline next Sunday with Universal theme parks in Orlando. The cable behemoth must pay 50 percent of the parks' worth, a projected $1 billion to $1.5 billion, or risk, because of the way the original contract is structured, forfeiting the entire resort complex.

The Comcastic price is due, in no small part, to a nearsighted British wizard. Comcast already owns the other half of Universal Studios Florida, Universal Wet 'n Wild, and the unwieldily named Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure. The Universal movie franchise's 36th and final installment - OK, eighth - opens July 15.

In acquiring complete ownership of the Florida entertainment mecca, which includes a panoply of shops, shows, and hotels, Comcast could rebrand the resort to better reflect its corporate identity. It could Comcasticize the place.

The move would open an outside world of possibilities for the cable outfit.

Then again, being outdoors is antithetical to the Comcast experience. Being active, too.

The challenge is to merge "fun" with Comcast, a heretofore unknown concept for many customers. How to build a winning Comcastland? A few suggestions:

Your Life on Hold Roller Coaster of Fear and Tedium: You'll need courage as you mount this logic-defying ride, where, at any moment, service is suspended while you're suspended in midair! Your heart - and life - will stop for minutes, most likely hours! Fear not. A Comcast service technician will be out to fix the problem sometime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Explanation of Your Paper Bill Hall of Mirrors: Wend your way through the maze of bundled services, partial fees, and "savings" promotions. Delight at the dizzying spirals and loops surrounding the monthly statement charges. Dive into the unfathomable abyss and mystery of accounting obfuscation as to why the cost never stays constant but, like hot air and cable executives' salaries, always goes up!

Xfinity HD Voice Triple Play on Demand, the Musical Experience: Into the unforgettable heart of the unknown. With Yanni.

Edtravaganza: Delight to the visceral freestyle slams of Comcast SportsNet football analyst Ed Rendell as he unleashes opinions on everything while trying to introduce slots to Comcastland. Floor shows nightly.

Seeking Shrek With Suzanne: Two entertainment giants team up for the first time, the Universal Studios chartreuse leviathan and the inquisitive Mama Comcast in one spectacular show!

Lobby for Your Life With David L. Cohen: Watch the political wizard acquire content providers, tax breaks, and former FCC officials to ensure the xfininite potential of Comcastification.

Prices for admission to Comcastland are subject to change on a regular basis regardless of any lapse in service, including hours stuck on Your Life on Hold Roller Coaster of Fear and Tedium, and possibly missing travel plans home.

Patrons may experience additional charges due to state and county public-access fees, state tax, county tax, local tax, franchise fees, city sales tax, HD technology fees, regular sales tax, irregular sales tax, as well as any bonus tax we may add as a lark.

Actually, may is our idea of a joke.

You will experience additional charges and any others we can dream up between the time you book your trip and arrival at Comcastland.

Suburban visitors will be subject to lower prices than city residents.

City residents will experience potential "savings" by increasing bundled services.

And by savings we mean nothing of the sort.

To xfinity and beyond!


Contact columnist Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or kheller@phillynews.com, or @kheller on Twitter. Read the blog "Blinq" at www.philly.com/ blinq. Read her past columns at www.philly.com/KarenHeller

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