Padden pending as ABC network prexy

NEW YORK — Former News Corp. exec Preston Padden is in negotiations for a senior-level post at ABC, filling many of the responsibilties last held by former network prexy David Westin.

The ABC post, likely president of network operations, would oversee network functions such as affiliate relations, sales and marketing, research and broadcast engineering. But Padden would also become the point man for discussions on applications of digital TV technology, exclusivity agreements with affiliates and other areas where ABC has no top-level execs assigned.

“The focus of the job is to bring someone in who can take a leadership role with that,” one ABC exec familiar with the talks said.

Padden, 48, reached at home Sunday, declined to confirm the ABC talks, saying only that “I am considering multiple new opportunities that have come my way.”

He resigned early this month as chairman of News Corp.’s ASkyB sat-TV unit after clashing with Charlie Ergen, CEO of EchoStar, whose own deal to merge with ASkyB is now in doubt. At the same time, ABC CEO Bob Iger was stepping up his search for a successor to Westin — now president of ABC News — in a downgraded post that no longer includes programming responsibilities. The job now will be structured along the lines of network prexy posts at NBC and CBS.

But Padden has yet to extricate himself from his contract with News Corp., complicating discussions.

No affil fave at Fox

Padden joined News Corp. in 1990 as D.C. lobbyist and head of network distribution for Fox Broadcasting, where his reputation for hardball tactics “didn’t exactly endear him to affiliates,” one exec said. So the reaction of ABC affiliates, already upset by the network’s declining fortunes, may be somewhat mixed.

Padden was earlier rumored as a candidate for a Washington-based job at ABC parent Walt Disney Co. handling business development and lobbying, and if he joins ABC he could fulfill similar functions for the network. ABC general counsel Alan Braverman is also its chief D.C. lobbyist.

Padden is said to have informed associates of plans to join the Alphabet web, which is expected to announce the appointment, pending contract discussions, at or just before its affiliate meeting June 2-4 in Orlando, Fla.

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