Shell's Game: Organic Growth

2/04/2009 5:00 AM Eastern

Comcast Programming Group president Jeff Shell continues to oversee the cable company's diverse portfolio of programming networks, including E!, G4, Style, The Golf Channel, Versus, PBS Kids Sprout and FearNet. At a Golf-Versus sales event in New York City last week, Shell spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about expansion strategies for 2009.  An edited transcript follows:

MCN: Will the Comcast Programming Group look to expand its portfolio by launching any new networks in the near future?

Jeff Shell: We're always looking for new ideas and new content, but I think as things move more toward a multiplatform environment, our focus now is more expanding the networks that we have and strengthening the brands that we have. We'll always look at new ideas and talk to everyone but we'll be more focused on expanding our brands and making them stronger.

MCN: Will you look at acquiring other existing properties or channels to add to the portfolio?

JS: No. We like our content business the way it is. Brian [Roberts, the Comcast chairman] and Steve [Burke, Comcast's chief operating officer] will tell me if they ever want to make [the group] bigger. My job right now is to run with what we've got.

MCN: Where do you see the opportunities to expand the brands currently under the Comcast portfolio?

JS: The nice thing about our brands and our channels is that we've got brands that are all very young and/or are very targeted at specific demographics. If you look at each of our brands, they're perfect for the new multiplatform universe. With The Golf Channel, we're busy expanding the brand in every direction. Golf is one of those sports in which the people watching Tiger Woods also play the game, so we're expanding the digital aspect of the brand into travel and booking tee times.

E! Entertainment provides the perfect opportunity for digital expansion. We are the gold standard of celebrity news, which is one of the thriving areas on the Web. We've done a lot of work in expanding the E! brand online and on VOD.

Overall we're looking to expand each of our brands both for our advertisers and our viewers.

MCN: Has the poor economy dampened you 2009 expansion plans at all, particularly on the programming development side?

JS: No. I think like any other ad supported business we're going to see some challenging times this year.

We happen to be fortunate that we work under a Comcast umbrella that is a big, healthy, thriving company. So even though you have to tighten your belt a little bit and be prudent about things, I think we're still as active as ever with regards to looking at opportunities.

But if the advertising dollars aren't there, you have to be a little more selective in what you do and how fast you do it and I think we'll do that. But it's not going to stop any of our plans.


 Check out part of their video conversation here.

Comcast's Roster
Comcast programming assets overseen by Jeff Shell:
SOURCE: Comcast
Entertainment: E!, Style, G4, TV One, Sprout
National Sports Networks: Versus, Golf Channel
Regional Sports Networks: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Comcast SportsNet California, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, Comcast SportsNet New England, Comcast SportsNet Northwest, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, SportsNet New York, Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast
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