In a major leadership move, Comcast said Dave Watson will become president and CEO of Comcast, succeeding Neil Smit, who will transition to a new role as vice chairman of Comcast Corp., effective April 1.
Smit, who will work closely with Watson to ensure a smooth leadership transition over the next few months, will then work part-time with Comcast leaders to “develop future technology-oriented business opportunities,” the company said.
Smit, formerly the CEO of Charter Communications and also an exec late of AOL and Nabisco, was named president of Comcast Cable in January 2010, and was promoted to president and CEO of the cable unit and EVP of Comcast Corp. the following year. Before his corporate career, Smit was a Navy SEAL, serving as a member of SEAL Team Six.
Watson, who joined Comcast in 1991, has served as COO of Comcast Cable since 2010, and has partnered with Smit in running the cable division since Smit joined the company. Prior to serving as COO, Watson has held several senior roles at Comcast, including those in product, sales, marketing and advertising.
Comcast, aided by the rollout of its X1 platform, has seen a steady improvement to its video business in recent years. The operator added 80,000 video subs in Q4 2016, enabling Comcast to add more than 160,000 video subs for the full year.
“Dave Watson is the perfect new leader of Comcast Cable,” Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “There are few people in the cable industry who have his breadth and depth of experience. Dave, along with Neil and the executive teams across the cable division, drove the operating strategy and execution that have led to phenomenal growth over the last several years as well as our focus on the customer experience and the improvements we have made recently. Dave knows the business and has a track record of delivering results."
Roberts added: "Neil has been an extraordinary leader and has helped transform Comcast Cable into the top cable and broadband company in the nation. He is not only an exceptional executive, but he is also one of the finest individuals with whom I have had the privilege to work. Neil and his team have created an innovation engine at Comcast Cable, with countless new and game-changing products and businesses.”
“It is an honor to take the reins from Neil,” Watson added. “ I can’t thank him enough for his partnership during the last seven years,” said Dave Watson. “Neil has taught us all lessons in leadership, team building, focus, and execution. He challenged us to reinvent the television experience; to grow video customers; to make Comcast video positive; to invest in our plant; to grow broadband customers; and, to build business services essentially from scratch. And, he succeeded on all fronts.”
“Leading Comcast Cable has been a wonderful experience,” Smit said, in a statement. “Brian has been a terrific partner and I have the utmost respect and admiration for his vision, leadership, and drive. It has been an honor and privilege leading this team. I know I am leaving Comcast Cable in great hands with Dave Watson as its new leader. As I approach 60, and for reasons related to the injuries I sustained in my previous career, I am looking forward to spending more time with my family while also helping Comcast find new growth opportunities.”
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