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Cable Technology Feature Article

November 15, 2010

Report: Comcast COO on Verge of Announcing New Leadership Team for NBC Universal

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Steve Burke, chief operating officer at Comcast (News - Alert) Corp., and soon-to-be CEO at NBC Universal, has big plans.

In a tell-all report published Saturday, Wall Street Journal reporters Sam Schechner and Jessica Vascellaro fed the rumor mill with some inside information about Burke’s plans for NBC Universal (News - Alert).

First, a bit of history.

Last December, Comcast announced plans to buy a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal. The joint venture has been in regulatory review since, and is expected to be given the green light sometime early next year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Burke already has a pretty good idea what changes he wants to make at NBC Universal when he takes the helm. Those changes include “bringing in some new talent while expanding the role of several existing executives,” Schechner and Vascellaro said, quoting unnamed sources. Burke likely will make the details known as soon as early next week.

Burke’s goal, the Wall Street Journal said, is to create a more flat organizational structure, giving him more direct control over the company’s broadcast and cable TV network assets. Most of the changes involve expanding the responsibilities of existing managers, and changing the hierarchy so they report directly to Burke.

For example, former Showtime programming head Bob Greenblatt reportedly will oversee entertainment programming for NBC’s broadcast division, and two NBC Universal managers—Bonnie Hammer and Lauren Zalaznick—will have their roles expanded. All three supposedly will report directly to Burke.

Burke is also expected to decentralize advertising sales, the Wall Street Journal said.

Los Angeles Times reporter Meg James noted in a Saturday report that Burke has spent months working out the details of his future executive team. Back in September, he let NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker that “there would be not room for him in the new organization, prompting Zucker to announce he would depart when Comcast takes over.”

Another possible change, James reported, might be the departure of Jeff Gaspin, who currently heads up NBC Universal’s TV division. Any role he might take appears to involve significantly less responsibility, and it isn’t clear yet whether that’s a deal-breaker.

Mae Kowalke is a TMCnet contributor. She is Manager of Stories at Neundorfer, Inc., a cleantech company in Northeast Ohio. She has more than 10 years experience in journalism, marketing and communications, and has a passion for new tech gadgets. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf