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Comcast Names Greenblatt to Head NBC Entertainment

Robert Greenblatt, former programming chief at CBS Corp.’s Showtime network, will become chairman of NBC Entertainment after Comcast Corp. assumes control of the TV, film and theme-park company.

Greenblatt will be responsible for the broadcast network’s prime-time and late-night programming, business affairs, marketing, public relations, scheduling and NBC Universal Media Studios, Stephen Burke, Comcast’s chief operating officer and NBC Universal’s incoming head, said today in a memo.

The challenge for Burke and Greenblatt will be to boost ratings at NBC, which ranks last in viewers again this season behind CBS, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and News Corp.’s Fox. Investors will be looking for better programming and increasing advertising revenue, said Christopher King, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in Baltimore. Profit at the company’s cable channels rose 22 percent in the third quarter.

“We’ve developed a structure that organizes the company in the smartest way possible,” Burke said in the memo to employees. “We are beginning our leadership announcements now because with the anticipated close of the deal nearing, we want to give everyone enough time to begin to think about the specific opportunities and challenges they will face beginning the day of the close.”

Greenblatt replaces Jeff Gaspin, who will leave the company once the merger is complete.

The former Showtime executive helped revitalize CBS’s premium pay-TV channel by developing gritty shows like “Weeds,” which chronicles a pot-dealing mom, and “Dexter,” about a likable serial killer.

Network Management

Greenblatt left Showtime in July. Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, and Angela Bromstad, president of prime-time entertainment, will report to him.

With Greenblatt, the NBC broadcast network gets its third entertainment chief in four years. Gaspin lasted 16 months, presiding over Conan O’Brien’s departure from the network and the return of Jay Leno as host of “The Tonight Show.”

His predecessor, Ben Silverman, a producer brought in to rehabilitate NBC in 2007, was fired after two years of flops.

Gaspin and Bromstad replaced a third of the network’s prime-time schedule this year to rebuild NBC’s audience of 18-to-49-year-old viewers that advertisers target.

The results have been mixed eight weeks into the new TV season. New York-based NBC has increased its total prime-time audience by 3.1 percent to an average of 8.06 million a night while remaining in fourth place, according to data from Nielsen Co. In the 18-to-49 group, it’s up 2.2 percent and still last.

Cable Leaders

Bonnie Hammer and Lauren Zalaznick will add to their existing NBC Universal jobs. Hammer, who oversees USA and Syfy networks among others, will take on Comcast’s E! and G4 channels. Zalaznick, who is responsible for women-oriented offerings like Bravo and Oxygen, adds the Spanish-language network Telemundo, Style and websites DailyCandy and Fandango.

Comcast, the largest U.S. cable television company, is acquiring a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal from General Electric Co. by paying $6.5 billion in cash and contributing cable channels worth $7.25 billion to a joint venture that will own the entertainment company.

The deal is awaiting regulatory approval. Philadelphia- based Comcast expects the green light by year-end, Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts said on Oct. 27.

Burke has been working for almost a year to assemble his executive team, cherry picking some NBC and Comcast talent and bringing in new faces like Greenblatt.

Affiliate Relations

After leading Comcast’s E! Network, among others, Ted Harbert will take control of NBC’s business side. Harbert will oversee broadcast advertising sales, the NBC station group, domestic TV syndication and NBC affiliate relations. Jeff Shell, the head of Comcast’s programming group, will oversee NBC’s international business based out of London.

Burke also said Steve Capus will continue as president of NBC News and MSNBC, while Mark Hoffman will continue to lead CNBC. Dick Ebersol will become continue to oversee sports as chairman of the NBC Sports Group.

Ron Meyer remains president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios, with Adam Fogelson as chairman of Universal Pictures and Tom Williams in charge of parks and resorts.

Comcast rose 18 cents to $20.57 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have risen 22 percent this year. GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, gained 23 cents to $16.04 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

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