Comcast ladles beans for Frank

Comcast Corp., looking to become a serious player in programming, has turned to former Disney exec Rich Frank to spearhead the cable giant’s efforts.

Frank will become chairman/CEO of C3 (Comcast Content and Communication) and will have an ownership stake in the Los Angeles-based production company.

Comcast, the fourth largest cable operator in the nation with 3.4 million subscribers, is looking to Frank to increase the company’s programming holdings and put the company in a league with Tele-Communications Inc. and Time Warner. He begins his duties immediately.

While Comcast is majority owner of home shopping service QVC, it is not yet a major player in programming compared to other cablers. TCI, through its programming arm Liberty Media, and Time Warner own or have stakes in many of the major programming networks while Comcast has focused heavily on QVC and other areas of telecommunications including cellular and wireless.

Frank, who left his post as chairman of Walt Disney Television & Telecommunications last spring, will have a significant ownership stake in C3 – which he cited as a priority for his next job when he exited the studio – with a mandate to create and invest in programming services for Comcast.

C3 also looks to become a player in network and syndicated programming as well as interactive fare. Frank will create a distribution division for inhouse product and programming from other production companies. C3, Comcast said, also will look for acquisitions of programming and “media-related” companies.

In addition, C3 will oversee Comcast’s other program holdings besides QVC. Comcast also has small stakes in Turner Broadcasting Systems where Roberts is a board member, E! Entertainment Television, pay-per-view network Viewer’s Choice and several smaller services. Comcast also recently invested $45 million in a programming venture with Cox Cable and Times Mirror.

While C3 will have oversight at QVC, Doug Briggs, president of QVC, will continue to report to Roberts as well.

Frank has a long track record as one of the industry’s most prominent executives. He spent 10 years at Disney.

During his tenure, Disney became one of the biggest suppliers of network product, including the hits “Home Improvement,” “Ellen” and “The Golden Girls.”

Before his stint at Disney, Frank was president of the Paramount Television Group. Under his watch, the studio produced such hits as “Cheers,” “Family Ties” and firstrun syndication mainstay “Entertainment Tonight.”

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