Comcast Shakes Up Tech, Operations Ranks

John Schanz, Cathy Avgiris transition to new roles, Greg Butz to head new Comcast Mobile
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In a series of moves that hints at a new focus on wireless communications, Comcast is reorganizing some of its top tech and operations management, resulting in the transition of EVP and chief network officer John Schanz and EVP and cable chief financial officer Cathy Avgiris to new roles, and the promotion of EVP sales and marketing operations Greg Butz to head up a new mobile unit, according to sources familiar with the company.

News of the reorganization comes about eight months after Comcast notified Verizon Wireless of its intention to invoke its Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) rights under a previous wireless spectrum sale. Other participants in that sale were Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, now a part of Charter Communications. While Charter chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge has said that Charter could invoke its MVNO rights as well, he hasn’t given any additional details. 

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Wireless and mobility have been a key issue in the pay TV business, and Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit has said the cable operator is in the “test and learn” mode regarding wireless offerings. 

While Butz, a 20-year Comcast veteran, has been in a  sales and marketing role for awhile, he has a solid background in wireless communications. Before joining Comcast Cable in 1999, Butz was director of business development for Comcast Cellular Communications from 1993 to 1995, promoted to vice president of business planning and development that year. Rick Lang, who had been SVP of marketing and sales for Comcast's Central Division, will take over Butz' marketing role as SVP of marketing and sales. 

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As president of Comcast Mobile, Butz will report to Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit. While sources familiar with the company said Comcast remains in “test mode” for wireless, Butz’ appointment helps formalize the company’s wireless commitment.

Schanz, who joined Comcast about a decade ago, is a well-respected executive in the tech community, in charge of the largest video and broadband network in the pay TV industry, serving 22 million cable customers, 23 million high-speed Internet customers and 11 million voice customers. He will be moving to an advisory role at Atairos, the investment vehicle set up by former Comcast vice chairman and CFO Michael Angelakis last year. Schanz will advise the fund on potential technology investments. Schanz’ responsibilities on the network side will be assumed by president, technology and product, Tony Werner. Schanz was also responsible for ad tech operations, including its investments in companies like Visible World and Freewheel. Those responsibilities will be assumed by EVP of consumer services Marcien Jenckes.

Avgiris, a 23-year Comcast veteran, will transition to the role of interim global risk officer, and will co-chair several committees – enterprise risk management, Cybersecurity governance and physical security – for the company and serve as a consultant to the company through 2017. She will be replaced in the CFO role by SVP of financial planning Steve Croney.

Avgiris joined the company in a finance role, but made her biggest splash on the telecom side  – she was SVP and general manager of its Digital Voice unit – and helped guide the circuit-switched telephone business acquired from AT&T Broadband toward profitability, making Comcast one of the largest non-Baby Bell, facilities-based competitive local telephone providers in the U.S. She also was responsible for launching the Verizon Wireless partnership, spearheading Comcast’ WiFi  initiative and managing Internet Essentials, the company’s broadband adoption program. She was  named EVP and CFO of the cable division in 2013.