Comcast Corp. has fortified its senior management team, dipping into the ranks of cellular-phone executives to tap Robert Faught as its senior vice president of retail and commercial online sales.
At the same time, Comcast named former Charter Communications Inc. chief technology officer Steve Silva to be executive vice president of new business development.
In his new capacity, Faught will be responsible for expanding retail distribution of the company's high-speed Internet, digital cable and HDTV offerings.
Silva will be responsible for identifying and developing new broadband-related businesses. He'll report directly to Comcast Cable Communications president Steve Burke.
"With the integration with AT&T Broadband well under way and most of the company ready for advanced services, we feel it is time to accelerate the rollout of new-business opportunities," Burke said in a statement.
While Silva is well-known in cable circles, Faught is not. He's a 25-year veteran of the cellular retail space, having held positions at L.A. Cellular, BellSouth, Phillips Consumer Communications and Universal Wireless.
Comcast has a retail presence in more than 3,200 stores, initially with cable modems, but more recently with HDTV. With the industry's plug-and-play deal with the consumer electronics crowd, cable's interest in retail will only expand.
Faught said he joined Comcast to build upon what's been done already, and to bring his retail expertise to bear.
"We need to make sure to continue to identify where the business is headed," he said. "We need to build our team in the marketing, operational and finance area. We need to support the retailers … and need to develop our relationships with the major accounts."
Faught, in a sense, will serve as the middleman between retailers and the various Comcast divisions to make sure marketing and promotional plans work for individual stores and cable systems in individual markets.
Although Faught is new to cable, he'll see some familiar faces at Comcast. David Juliano is Comcast's senior vice president and general manager of Comcast Online, and worked with Faught in the 1980s at L.A. Cellular.
Faught began his marketing career at Colgate-Palmolive Inc., and headed sales and marketing at Atari, during the video game company's go-go days of the 1980s. He joined L.A. Cellular in the late 1980s, where he developed plans with retailers to sell the first cellular phones.
"We eventually got our operations, systems, and procedures honed, the industry grew and retail became a viable channel," said Faught. "If you look at cable, the similarities are just startling."
Retailers are going through the pain of learning how to sell new products on the operations side, he said.
"We need to show the retailer the value of a good marketing program" and "really work at the marketing piece," said Faught. "In the early days of wireless, operators were not used to having consumer-friendly retail programs. It is the same issue with cable."
After his L.A. Cellular stint, Faught went to work for BellSouth Corp. In 1997, he moved to Phillips Consumer Communications, a joint venture of Phillips Consumer Electronics Co. and Lucent Technologies Inc., then on to Universal Wireless before taking the Comcast job.
He was impressed with Comcast — including the MSO's turnaround of his local cable system in Atlanta, a former AT&T Broadband operation — even before the company pitched him to join, he said.
"Since Comcast has taken over that, it is so dramatically different," he said. "They really want to work with the consumer."
It will be Faught's job to work with the consumer even further, taking Comcast's relationships with retailers to a new level.