In Depth

Profile: Derek Harrar, Senior VP and General Manager of Video Services at Comcast Cable

The player: Derek Harrar, senior VP and general manager of video services at Comcast Cable.

The play: Mr. Harrar is leading the largest U.S. cable provider’s efforts to compete against satellite operators by expanding its on-demand service, which offers customers about 250 high-definition program choices that can be accessed at any time, in addition to about 30 linear HD channels. Comcast plans to boost its monthly HD movie inventory to 3,000 titles next year.

The pitch: Comcast, which has 24 million cable subscribers, plans to compete against leading satellite provider DirecTV, which had 87 linear HD channels at the beginning of the year, by expanding its monthly HD television show and film choices to more than 1,000 a month by the end of the year. “We don’t really think it’s about the linear channels anymore,” Mr. Harrar said. “High-definition customers are more advanced, demanding and technology-savvy. Most say they’d rather have programming on their own schedule.”

Backstory: Mr. Harrar, 37, joined Comcast in 2004 after seeing a job posting on its Web site—he’d gone to the site to find out how he could upgrade to HD for the Super Bowl. Mr. Harrar had previously been an investment banker for eight years, primarily with Morgan Stanley, and had become familiar with cable and Internet technology while working in the Silicon Valley. Raised in Philadelphia, Mr. Harrar graduated from Washington & Lee University.

Blu-ray or HD DVD: The format war “certainly hasn’t hurt us,” Mr. Harrar said, adding that HD programming on cable “saves customers from the exercise of wading through these technologies and buying an expensive piece of equipment.”