Comcast Hires Ex-Mag Racker

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Comcast Corp. has hired Matt Strauss, former general manager at Rainbow Programming Holdings Inc.’s Mag Rack special-interest video-on-demand service, to create a more tightly focused version of that Rainbow service, MSO executive Amy Banse said Wednesday.

“We want to learn from Matt’s experience and replicate the best of what Mag Rack has to offer,” Banse, executive vice president of Comcast’s programming-investments division, said during a daylong briefing for reporters at the cable company’s headquarters in Philadelphia.

During Strauss’ first day on the job, in early June, Banse said they came up with about 30 ideas for on-demand segments -- “everything from parenting to dating to fitness to weights to wheels to birds” -- that have followings but not enough critical mass to support full-time channels.

Banse said Strauss is a VP in her division. The video segments he’d create could start appearing on Comcast’s digital on-demand platform of free videos in the next 90 days, she added.

Earlier, Banse said, “We are looking at creating or replicating -- hopefully at less cost -- a Mag Rack.” She later said she didn’t know Mag Rack’s cost, but she meant that Comcast’s service wouldn’t be as broad an offering as Mag Rack.

Mag Rack’s key cable affiliates are Rainbow parent Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter Communications Inc. and Insight Communications Co. Inc.

"Comcast's new VOD plans validate Rainbow's long-held view that new, original and compelling content can drive penetration, usage and consumer enjoyment of the on-demand platform," Rainbow Media said in a prepared statement.

"The more excellent content that is available, the more people will buy," the programmer added. "Comcast is a valued business partner, and we wish them well in their new endeavor."Banse also confirmed that Comcast’s national programming services have contemplated consolidating ad-sales and affiliate-sales staffs, “but both of those are very much in the discussion stages.”

She said that as far as she knew, Comcast was no longer actively searching for a programming “czar” to oversee the company’s stable of owned or controlled cable networks, which include E! Entertainment Television, The Golf Channel, Outdoor Life Network and G4TechTV.