E!’s Harbert to Head Comcast Unit

Comcast is creating a new division for its West Coast entertainment networks that will be run by E! Networks CEO Ted Harbert, officials said Thursday.

Harbert was promoted and named president and CEO of Comcast Entertainment Group, effective immediately. In that newly created post, he will oversee the channels he previously was responsible for -- E! Entertainment Television and Style -- as well as G4.

Harbert will continue to report to Jeff Shell, president of Comcast Programming Group. But G4 president Neal Tiles, who previously reported to Shell, will now report to Harbert.

There will be consolidation, expected to be completed next year, as G4 is added to Harbert’s fold. The purpose of creating the new division is to take advantage of cost efficiencies and cut overhead for G4, spurring its economic growth, since it will no longer have to run as a stand-alone operation, Harbert said.

G4’s executives will move to E! headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, and decisions will have to be made about how and where the shows for all three networks are produced, according to Harbert.

When asked if the consolidation will mean layoffs, he said, “What we have to study from top to bottom is where there’s efficiency and consolidation. When you look at administrative groups and support functions, there may be overlap. If there is overlap, we’ll have some tough decisions to make.”

But Harbert stressed that it’s “important that the programming and marketing staffs for all three networks keep their distinct voice.”

Comcast’s announcement about Comcast Entertainment Group seemed to suggest that the division will be growing, since it said the unit’s properties “currently” include E!, Style and G4. Comcast plans to roll out several on-demand/broadband services, beginning with horror channel FearNet Oct. 31, Halloween.

Veteran TV executive Harbert joined E! Networks as president and CEO in the summer of 2004.

"Ted is an experienced leader with television sensibilities that are unmatched," Shell said in a prepared statement. "He has expertly guided and grown E! and Style over the past two years, and I am thrilled that Ted will have the opportunity to further develop these three great brands."

Tiles, an alumnus of DirecTV and Fox Sports, came on board at G4 in September 2005. He has toiled to make G4 a multiplatform destination for men 18-34, broadened beyond its original mission of being a gaming network. He revamped the network’s original-programming slate and made several high-profile acquisitions, including Arrested Development and the upcoming Spaceballs: The Animated Series, based on the classic Mel Brooks feature film.

Harbert said his portfolio will include both a network that covers what young men care about, G4, and one about things young women care about, Style.