In yet another mismatch between a cable-industry veteran
and a telephone company turned MSO, MediaOne senior vice president of programming Jedd
Palmer exited the company last week.
Palmer, who was head of programming for Tele-Communications
Inc. before joining MediaOne, left after his position was eliminated in a corporate
restructuring. Judi Allen, MediaOne's senior vice president of marketing, will assume
his programming duties. Palmer, who joined MediaOne in January, declined to comment.
With the realignment, Allen was given a new title -- senior
vice president of video -- and she will handle both programming and marketing. According
to company sources, MediaOne wanted to streamline and have one executive each in charge of
its three lines of business: video, high-speed Internet access and telephony. Tom Cullen
is the MSO's vice president of Internet services, and Greg Braden is vice president
of digital-telephone services.
Although the restructuring was given as the reason for
Palmer's departure, sources familiar with the matter said his relationship with
MediaOne had been strained for some time.
"I couldn't imagine a worse fit," one
Sources said both sides had decided that it was best for
Palmer to leave, and an amicable deal -- under which Palmer may have done some consulting
-- was being negotiated in secret. But word of Palmer's coming exit leaked last
Thursday, reportedly infuriating MediaOne Group chairman and CEO Chuck Lillis, and the
consultant plan was scotched, one source said.
Palmer, who reported to executive vice president and chief
marketing officer Julie Dexter Berg, is the latest in a series of cable veterans who have
been unable to fit into the bureaucratic, go-by-the-book corporate culture of telcos that
have acquired MSOs. And his departure can't help but exacerbate Wall Street's
concerns about MediaOne's failure to fit into the tight-knit and
relationship-oriented cable industry.
"There's a fairly uniform feeling on the Street
that with its telephone mentality, MediaOne doesn't seem able to hold any management
from cable or to work with the rest of the cable industry, particularly regarding
high-speed data," one securities analyst said.
In particular, MediaOne -- then U S West Media Group --
topped the list of telcos that have alienated the cable industry when it acquired
then-Continental Cablevision Inc. and decided to move its headquarters from Boston to
Many respected Continental executives opted not to go to
Colorado, including former head of programming Rob Stengel, who was replaced by Palmer.
Aside from Palmer, during the past months, MediaOne has
also lost its regional managers for Atlanta, the West and the Southeast.
In a prepared statement, Berg said, "These
organizational moves give us the ability to more effectively design video products and
services, and to better integrate the many components involved in our core video business
We appreciate the contribution made by Jedd Palmer during his time at MediaOne, and
we wish him well for the future."
Palmer came to MediaOne after his duties as senior vice
president of programming at TCI were divided -- to be shared with another executive -- by
TCI president and chief operating officer Leo J. Hindery Jr.
Palmer is known as a skilled and tough negotiator, which
has won him a legion of both friends and enemies in the industry.
"He's a controversial character," one cable
In recent months, Palmer vocally complained to industry
colleagues about MediaOne and its culture of endless meetings and bureaucracy, and about
his lack of direct access to top officials there, such as president and CEO Jan Peters and
Lillis, according to several sources.
"Jedd grew up in the cable business, and there was a
cultural clash with MediaOne," one programming official said. "In cable, you
have to be quick and nimble. MediaOne is bureaucratic. And Jedd's problem is that
he's not political. Telcos are a political world."
Several sources said word that Palmer would actually be
leaving MediaOne first surfaced at the Women in Cable & Telecommunications dinner for
American Movie Classics president Kate McEnroe in Washington, D.C., the week of Oct. 26.
His relationship with MediaOne had been deteriorating, sources added.
"He's been confiding in friends for months about
how unhappy he was," one source said. "He was getting increasingly frustrated,
and he was becoming uncooperative, doing what he wanted to do. Then he started to do what
he wanted to do without consulting Julie [Berg]."
Allen does have a background in negotiating programming
deals for MSOs: She joined MediaOne in February, after Palmer, from Century Communications
Corp., where she was senior vice president of marketing and programming.
Several sources characterized Allen as ambitious and smart,
although she is less experienced than Palmer in negotiating programming deals.
MediaOne sent an internal e-mail to employees last Thursday
that described the restructuring, and it didn't mention Palmer's departure until
the ninth paragraph.