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Staffers Bracing For Change With Comcast-NBCU Deal Done

Now that Comcast has given NBC Universal staffers a warm and fuzzy welcome, there is work to be done.The Jan. 27 town meeting left many NBCU employees impressed with Comcast’s top brass, but couldn’t take away their vague feelings of dread that there are other shoes to drop.

Indeed, former Comcast COO Steve Burke, now CEO of NBCU, said during the town meeting that he wants to hit the ground running, and “obviously there will be more changes and decisions made over the next month or two.”

The $30 billion deal is expected to officially close late today ( Jan. 28), ending a long period of limbo and uncertainty as regulators went over the transaction. Now reality is about to hit.

Comcast announced in November who would be on the senior leadership team at NBCU, and which top NBCU executives would be losing their jobs, including CEO Jeff Zucker, television boss Jeff Gaspin, head of ad sales Mike Pilot and communications chief Allison Gollust. And while a fair share of the key executives running things are NBCU veterans many staffers at the media giant will be reporting to new superiors from the cable company. Anytime there’s a new boss, there’s reason to be worried.

There are also several areas where NBCU and Comcast divisions overlap, or function differently, and changes are very likely to occur there as well.

With NBC’s primetime a very public black eye, more change is likely in NBC Entertainment as Bob Greenblatt builds his own team to develop new shows for the network. When Burke’s reorganization memo came out in November, NBC’s then president of primetime entertainment Angela Bromstad was named as being part of the team, reporting to Greenblatt. But earlier this month, Bromstad announced she was leaving the network. And she’s not likely to be the last departure.

There also appears to be overlap in cable advertising where NBC had a full complement of executives overseeing sales for USA Network, Syfy, Bravo and Oxygen. Now with Comcast Networks’ David Cassaro in charge, and likely to want to put some of his own key lieutenants into top jobs, some fallout is likely.

Bonnie Hammer, head of NBCU’s USA and Syfy cable networks, was named chairman of NBC Universal Cable entertainment and Cable Studios, and will be picking a new president of E! Entertainment, so everyone at that network will have a new boss.

Content distribution, with longtime NBCU TV networks distribution chief Bridget Baker now heading the operation while reporting to her former Comcast client Matt Bond, is another area where some management streamlining could be in order.

Comcast and NBC Universal also have different approaches and structures for business and legal affairs and negotiating contracts. As business leaders Bonnie Hammer and Lauren Zalaznick now oversee cable networks from both Comcast and NBCU, look for those processes and teams to ultimately see some reorganization and new standards set.

Spending issues are also likely to arise. Will Comcast prove to be willing to invest as heavily as General Electric when the next round of Olymipics rights finally get auctioned off? Will it pay top dollar for a resurgent NHL? And even though we’re talking about NBC, it is still network TV, with budget and staffing levels that might be richer than those in Kabletown’s neighborhood. But until those shoes drop, NBC Universal employees are finding the grass greener with Comcast than with former owner GE.

On Thursday morning, NBC Universal staffers found welcome packages on their desks from Comcast. The packages included passes to a Universal theme park and 25 shares of Comcast stock. “The other guys never would have done that,” said one NBCU staffer.