Jeff Shell Joins Comcast as Top Programmer

Feb 3, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Comcast Corp. on Thursday named Jeff Shell president of programming at the cable giant, ending months of speculation that the former Gemstar-TV Guide International CEO was being courted by the cable company for a top programming position.

The hiring of Mr. Shell coincides with the creation of Comcast Programming, a unit that will hold the company’s interests in its suite of national content networks and investments.

Channels falling under the Comcast Programming umbrella include E! Entertainment Network, Style, TechTV, Golf Channel, Outdoor Life Network, TV One, International Channel networks, the company’s regional sports networks, the new kids-themed channel and the new networks being launched using film and television content from Sony Pictures Entertainment and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Mr. Shell will officially join Comcast on May 2 and will report to Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke. Mr. Shell will be based out of Comcast’s Philadelphia headquarters.

Speculation that Mr. Shell would join Comcast heated up in December after Mr. Shell stepped down as CEO of Gemstar, saying he had achieved many of the goals he set out to accomplish at that company. At the time, Mr. Shell said he had no job offers waiting in the wings.

To make way for Mr. Shell, Comcast last month promoted and expanded the role of Amy Banse to senior VP of content development. Ms. Banse had been in charge of the company’s investments in and the development of cable networks, but in her new role she will explore ways to integrate content across a variety of platforms, including broadband and video-on-demand.

Comcast has for about a year been looking for an executive to lead the company’s content effort, which has become an increasingly important business for the cable giant.

Thursday morning, during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call and ahead of the announcement of Mr. Shell’s hiring, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts described cable channels as an area “we have had great success with,” adding that the company is “enhancing our management in the coming weeks and months to take advantage of the great deal-making that Amy Banse and her team have done.”

Mr. Roberts said he doesn’t see any cable networks for sale at present and that “building our own is the preferred methodology.” He added he was keen on partnering with other content providers and technology companies.

Mr. Shell joins Comcast after nearly three years with Gemstar. He joined Gemstar at the behest of controlling shareholder News Corp. at a time when Gemstar was being rocked by an accounting scandal that led to the ouster of several top Gemstar executives. Before that, he was president of Fox Cable Networks Group and served in the strategic planning group at The Walt Disney Co. He also spent time on Wall Street at investment bank Salomon Bros.