PHILADELPHIA — Comcast Corp. dates back to 1963, when businessman Ralph Roberts got into the cable TV business in its early days. He spent $500,000 for American Cable Systems, a company in Tupelo, Miss., that strung up cable to carry TV broadcasts to homes that couldn't get clear reception with antennas.
Later, the former New Yorker incorporated Comcast – named for "communications" and "broadcast" – closer to home in Pennsylvania, and expanded it by acquiring other cable TV providers. In 1990, Roberts' son, Brian, became president. He accelerated the company's expansion.
Comcast paid $47.5 billion for AT&T's cable division in 2002. Comcast now has 22 million subscribers in 39 states and Washington, D.C. Its services are available to just under half of the nation's households.
Under Brian Roberts, Comcast has not been content to be a mere distributor of programming. It has gained ownership of regional sports channels, the E! Entertainment network, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Philadelphia Flyers.
In 2004 Roberts made a dramatic stab at grabbing ownership of even more programming: He launched a $54 billion hostile bid for Walt Disney Co. Disney blocked it. Comcast's own shareholders didn't show much enthusiasm for the deal, either.
But Comcast succeeded in becoming an entertainment powerhouse when it bought a 51 percent stake in NBCUniversal from General Electric Co. in February 2011. A few months ago, Comcast appended NBC's peacock logo on top of its corporate name in a new logo of its own.
With Tuesday's deal, Comcast is gaining ownership of the rest, fulfilling Roberts' dream of owning both the cables that carry TV shows and movies and the studios that produce them.