Harbert to Head E!

Comcast Corp. has tapped a broadcast veteran with solid ties to Hollywood, Ted Harbert, as the new president and CEO of E! Networks, which includes E! Entertainment Television and Style.

Harbert -- a longtime executive at ABC and a former colleague of Comcast Cable Communications Inc. president Steve Burke -- will replace Mindy Herman as chief of E! effective July 12, Comcast said Thursday.

Herman, denying any wrongdoing, tendered her resignation at the end of May when allegations arose about her abusing her position and acting improperly.

“Ted is an excellent choice to head E! Networks as it begins its next chapter of growth,” Burke said in a prepared statement. “Ted has been in the television business for his entire professional life, and he is uniquely suited to reach out to the Hollywood community and make E! even more of a must-have network for people who love entertainment.”

Harbert is the former chairman of ABC Entertainment, which premiered NYPD Blue on his watch. Harbert and Burke were colleagues at ABC in the 1990s, when Burke was there as chief of ABC Broadcasting.

After ABC, Harbert did a stint as president of NBC Studios, where shows like Crossing Jordan came out of that shop during his tenure. Most recently, he was working as a producer for 20th Century Fox Television.

“E! and Style have experienced remarkable growth, and this is a wonderful opportunity to take these networks to the next level,” Harbert said in a prepared statement.

Herman -- a lawyer who had worked as a top executive at News Corp. and In Demand -- had been considered an odd choice to lead E! when Comcast hired her. In contrast, Harbert is a TV-industry insider who already has established and cordial relationships with the creative community in Hollywood, which could be a boost for E!.

Some of the entertainment world’s talent and executives have railed about the course E! has taken while Herman was in charge. Series such as Celebrities Uncensored led some stars to boycott the network, and TV critics ravaged it for airing fare like The Anna Nicole Show.

Harbert has the connections and background to be able to smooth over any feathers that E! has ruffled in Tinseltown.

Comcast is the majority owner (at 50%) and managing partner, of E!, with The Walt Disney Co. holding a large stake and Liberty Media Corp. a smaller one.

In the second quarter, E! posted a 0.4 household rating in primetime, flat compared with a year ago, according to an ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. E! was also flat in total day with a 0.3 rating.

Last year, E! had operating cash flow of $156 million, a margin of 49%, according to Comcast. The MSO valued E! Networks at $2.5 billion.