Comcast Hunts for Network Czar


Philadelphia -- Comcast Corp. is still hunting for a programming czar, a
seasoned cable-network veteran to run its growing content portfolio, officials
confirmed last week.

"At a certain scale, we need someone who’s run multiple programming
services," Comcast Cable Communications Inc. president Stephen Burke said during
an interview here.

Most recently, Comcast has been working with a local executive headhunter,
Howard Fischer Associates International, to fill the slot.

The top executive programming post at Comcast would be a newly created
position. The new official would be in charge of Comcast’s programming

The No. 1 U.S. MSO’s varied content portfolio includes holdings in E!
Entertainment Television, Style, Outdoor Life Channel, G4, The Golf Channel,
regional service CN8, The Comcast Network, start-up TV One and several regional
sports services.

That roster seems likely to grow. Comcast has said that it wants to continue
to help incubate niche channels. "Whether it’s two a year, or three one year and
none the next year, you’ll see us continue to birth new networks," Burke

In the process of selling its controlling stake in QVC Inc. to minority
holder Liberty Media Corp. -- which has exercised a buy-or-sell clause in the
partnership -- for $7.9 billion, Comcast is also in a good financial position to
possibly buy established channels.

The MSO looked into bidding on Vivendi Universal Entertainment, but it
ultimately declined to make an offer.

Amy Banse, executive vice president of Comcast’s programming-investments
unit, would report to the new programming executive, according to Burke. The
programming-investment unit, formed in January, currently manages Comcast’s
stakes in cable networks and seeks out investments in other programming

Banse is a veteran lawyer who has negotiated or worked on many of Comcast’s
programming-acquisition deals. On her watch at the program-investments unit,
Comcast has launched G4 and became a co-owner of TV One, an African-American
network slated to debut next year. But Banse has not done day-to-day operations
of a cable network or a group of such programming services.

"Amy’s great talent has been identifying new businesses and structuring them
from a business-development and an affiliate-relations point of view," Burke
said. "She would continue what she’s been doing, but we would [also] have
someone who has 20 years of experience running cable