Comcast Corp. gives E!'s Ted Harbert another six years

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Ted Harbert might be poised to take the prize for longevity in Hollywood.

Comcast Corp. announced that Harbert, who since 2004 has been in charge E!, the cable giant’s Los Angeles-based celebrity-centric channel, has signed a new contract that will extend his tenure as Comcast Entertainment Group president through -- drumroll please -- 2016.

Wow, only Supreme Court justices have that kind of job security, and certainly not television programmers, whose success is measured in the ratings that their programs produce. But Comcast is making a statement that they are better off with Harbert.

‘Ted has guided each of our entertainment brands to record-breaking growth in ratings and revenue over the past five years,’ Harbert’s boss, Jeff Shell, who is president of the Comcast Programming Group, said in a statement announcing the new long-term contract. ‘I am thrilled Ted will remain on board to ensure our success well into this decade.’


Harbert, the former chairman of ABC Entertainment and president of NBC Studios, effused: ‘I love this job because our brands are great and I love working for the smart and honest people at Comcast.’

Harbert has been in charge of the Comcast Entertainment Group since 2006 and his current deal was set to expire in 2012. The group includes E! Entertainment, the Style Network and G4, cable channels that Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts last month referred to as ‘subscale’ when comparing them with the prominence and profitability of NBC Universal’s powerful cable networks -- USA, Bravo, Syfy, MSNBC and CNBC. Those NBC Universal cable channels were a major motivation for Comcast’s bid to acquire NBC Universal.

Extending Harbert’s contract for such a long period also might have been designed to make sure that Harbert didn’t feel that his role would be ‘subscale’ in Comcast’s new world order. After all, once federal regulators approve the Comcast NBC Universal merger, Harbert will find himself among some formidable company with NBC Universal’s superstar cable executive team, including Lauren Zalaznick, who has been in charge of Bravo and Oxygen, and Bonnie Hammer, who runs NBC’s most profitable channels, USA and Syfy.

Harbert’s new deal might be the corporate suite version of E!'s monster hit: ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians.’

-- Meg James