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Upstream or Downstream: Where Entertainment is Headed
USC Gould School of Law

Friday, December 10, 2021

By Natalie Pesqueira

The 2021 Institute on Entertainment Law and Business took place virtually on Saturday, Oct. 16, connecting lawyers, executives, agents, producers and accountants to discuss the future of navigating the entertainment industry.

Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corp., served as this year’s keynote speaker. He discussed Comcast’s origins, the company’s approach to diversity, and how it navigated the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organized by the USC Gould School of Law and Beverly Hills Bar Association, the Institute on Entertainment Law and Business has been among the premier entertainment conferences in the nation for more than 65 years. Every year, the event hosts key members of the industry, USC Gould law students, and other industry players to examine the latest entertainment law issues and the business perspectives.

This year’s event focused on the future of the entertainment industry with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussions on current topics included free speech in today's social climate, industry trends, and the legal issues of the rise in creation and distribution of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The keynote presentation featured  Roberts in discussion with Institute Chair Bruce Ramer of Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman, Inc., to discuss the current state of the entertainment industry.

Brian L. Roberts (Comcast) in coversation with Bruce Ramer (Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman, Inc.)

Roberts described Comcast as a family business at heart. The corporation was founded in 1963 by his father, Ralph J. Roberts, who coined the name Comcast from the words “communication” and “broadcasting.”  “He had great vision,” said Roberts. “He had great imagination and great patience.” Today, Comcast is one of the largest cable and broadcasting companies in the world, with three main businesses – Xfinity, NBCUniversal, and Sky.

Roberts talked about the ways the company was affected by the COVID-19 shutdown. While  2020 was challenging for Comcast, the year also allowed the media giant to flourish, he said. The company has the largest broadband cable network in the country, and was prepared for the sudden influx of usage from consumers now being at home.

“Long term, professional management and still trying to think like an entrepreneur is hard to always get right’” said Roberts. “Every employee can make a difference and I think that’s what really showed during COVID.”

Diversity, equity, and inclusion has been at the forefront of businesses’ conversations across the country, and Ramer said Comcast has been championing diversity in the company for years. Thirty percent of Comcast employees are women and 44% of employees identify as people of color. “We’re learning, but we have a long way to go,” said Roberts. “This is such an important part of the DNA of our company. It comes down to wanting to reflect our customers and understanding that our customers and employees have to look the same.”

Learn more about USC Gould School of Law’s Institute on Entertainment Law and Business and other upcoming continuing legal education programs at cle.usc.edu.

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