Comcast Buys Out Hearst Stake in NECN

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Comcast said Thursday that it has acquired the remaining 50% interest it didn't already own in New England Cable News from Hearst Corp., for an undisclosed sum.

NECN, the largest 24-hour regional news network with more than 3 million subscribers in all six New England states, was formed in 1992 as a joint venture between Hearst and Comcast's predecessor cable operator in the area, Continental Cablevision. Continental became MediaOne in 1996 and in 1999 MediaOne was purchased by AT&T. Comcast purchased AT&T Broadband in 2002. 

The deal appears to be in line with Hearst's desire to unwind its partnerships - earlier this year it announced plans to acquire the remaining interest it didn't own in television station group Hearst-Argyle, completing the deal earlier in June. More recently Hearst made moves to tighten up its A&E Networks JV with The Walt Disney Co.

NECN president and general manager Charles Kravetz will resign and be replaced by Comcast SportsNet New England vice president and general manager Bill Bridgen.

Bridgen, pictured, who has more than a dozen years' experience in the cable industry and has run several cable networks, will have oversight of both networks.

"NECN is one of the leading sources for New England news and one of the most recognized regional cable networks in the nation, which makes it an attractive business operation," Comcast Sports Group president Jon Litner said in a release. "We value NECN's strong connection with New England viewers, and in combination with Comcast SportsNet New England, NECN will strengthen Comcast's position as the leading source for news, sports and entertainment in New England."

At a marketing conference in New York on Tuesday, Jeff Shell, president of the Comcast Programming Group, remarked that over the next five years his group would be focused partly on growing its regional sports properties, capitalizing on local-market advertising and broadcasting content struggles by newspapers and radio stations.

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