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NTL Taps Comcast’s Burch

NTL Inc., Britain’s largest cable operator, is importing a seasoned Comcast Corp. executive as its CEO as it prepares to digest an acquisition and gears up its attack against the 800-pound gorilla in the United Kingdom’s TV market, Rupert Murdoch.

NTL appointed Stephen Burch, a 17-year Comcast veteran, as president and CEO, replacing Simon Duffy. Duffy was named NTL’s executive vice chairman.

Burch most recently served as president of Comcast’s Atlantic division, and he played an instrumental role in Comcast’s integration of AT&T Broadband. That experience will be valuable at NTL.

Burch and NTL executives couldn’t be reached for comment. But in recent weeks, NTL officials have made it clear that they’re stepping up their efforts -- via mergers and acquisitions -- to grow and more aggressively compete against the dominant TV provider in Great Britain, Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting Group plc.

In addition to Burch’s hire, the latest linchpins in NTL’s strategy include: merging with British cable operator Telewest Global Inc.; being able to create a so-called four-play offer via the planned purchase of wireless provider Virgin Mobile Holdings plc; rebranding and banking on the Virgin name; and bidding against Murdoch to drive up costs for sports programming across the pond.

Mike Farrell contributed to this story.