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Comcast's gone chairman crazy in its executive structure for NBC Universal

November 18, 2010 | 11:10 am

How many chairmen does it take to run an entertainment company?

Apparently, at least seven. That's how many people Comcast Corp. has given that once lofty title to in its restructuring of NBC Universal.

HAMMER Although Comcast still doesn't have the keys to the NBC Universal executive wash room -- it will be at least another month before regulators complete their review of the merger -- the company disclosed its executive structure Thursday morning. That may seem presumptuous, but regulatory approval, with conditions, is expected and Comcast has indicated it wanted to ease uncertainty among the ranks at NBC Universal.

Perhaps it was chilly at Comcast's Philadelphia headquarters when it was mapping out its plans because there sure are a lot of layers. So far, only four NBC Universal executives are officially leaving as a result of the deal -- CEO Jeff Zucker, NBC Universal Chairman Jeff Gaspin, sales chief Mike Pilot and communications head Allison Gollust. It seems unlikely though that there won't be many more cuts once the new management becomes fully entrenched. 

Chairman used to be a unique title, but at NBC Universal it might be easier to find someone who doesn't hold that position. That's an exaggeration, but not by much and certainly if seven eople have chairman on their business card, the value in the position is somewhat eroded.

Some of the titles seem to have been given as a way to reduce potential turf wars. For example, Bonnie Hammer has become chairman of NBC Universal Entertainment and Cable Studios with oversight of USA, Syfy, E! and some other networks. Lauren Zalaznick has become chairman of NBC Universal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media and will continue to oversee Bravo, Oxygen and gets Telemundo (man she must have a big business card). It's no secret that Hammer and Zalaznick were wary of reporting to each other so this is a way for Burke to keep peace.

EBERSOL On the NBC side, Bob Greenblatt and Ted Harbert will be chairmen. Greenblatt will run programming for NBC while Harbert will have responsibility for business. Like Hammer and Zalaznick, it was unlikely that Greenblatt and Harbert would have been willing to report to each other so both will report to Burke.

Chairman is not the only title being handed out like free samples at a super market. There will also be at least seven presidents at NBC Universal and too many executive vice presidents to count.

There is one constant in all this change. Dick Ebersol still runs all things sports at NBC. Chairman may be an understatement for the venerable Ebersol. Perhaps they should just name him king.

-- Joe Flint

For the record: This post was updated on Friday to note that in fact there are seven people with the position of chairman at NBC Universal. 

Related post: Comcast details new NBC Universal structure

Top photo: Bonnie Hammer. Credit: Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Dick Ebersol. Credit: Aris Messinis / Associated Press

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