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Hopkins Leaves Gemstar for YES

Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. lost its second executive in as many weeks Thursday as the company’s top affiliate-sales and marketing executive, Ray Hopkins, is leaving to take over the chief operating officer position at Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network.

Hopkins’ departure comes one week after the company’s CEO, Jeff Shell, resigned amid rumors that he’s primed for Comcast Corp.’s programming-czar position.

Gemstar-TV Guide named Tonia O'Connor executive vice president, affiliate sales and marketing.

Hopkins, who will assume his duties Dec. 31, will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the regional sports network and will oversee its cable and satellite distribution, said YES CEO Tracy Dolgin, to whom Hopkins will report.

Hopkins has prior sports-network experience, having served as senior VP of affiliate sales and marketing for Fox Cable Networks, which operated more than 20 regional and national programming networks including Fox Sports Net and its owned-and-operated regional networks, FX, National Geographic Channel, Speed Channel, Fox Movie Channel and Fox Sports en Español.

Most recently, Hopkins served as executive VP of Gemstar-TV Guide affiliate sales and marketing, where he oversaw the company’s interaction with U.S. cable and satellite providers. Under his purview, TV Guide Channel became the fastest-growing network in 2004, reaching nearly 80 million subscribers.

“With Jeff’s departure, I figured this was a natural break and a great opportunity that I would be foolish to pass on,” Hopkins said. “It gives me a chance to work with Tracy, and regional sports networks is in my DNA.”

A 10-year veteran of the company,O'Connor, who reported to Hopkins, was most recently Gemstar-TV Guide's senior VP of national accounts, affiliate sales and marketing.

"With 10 years of experience at Gemstar-TV Guide, Tonia has a deep understanding of our products, as well as strong relationships in the cable and satellite industry. She has been instrumental in the rapid expansion of TV Guide Channel and TVG Network's distribution, and I expect her to continue making significant contributions to the company," Gemstar-TV Guide CEO Rich Battista said in a prepared statement.

"Under Tonia's leadership, I am confident that our excellent affiliate-sales and marketing team will continue our current distribution momentum while ensuring that our affiliates receive the highest-quality service and support," he added.