SBJ/October 24-30, 2011/Media

Lazarus gives Litner key role at NBC Sports

Connecticut chosen as new base for group

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In his biggest management moves since taking over as chairman of NBC Sports, Mark Lazarus has named his top lieutenant and decided to move most of NBC Sports’ operations to Connecticut.

Longtime Comcast executive Jon Litner was named a group president overseeing several businesses, including the Comcast SportsNet regional sports networks and all of NBC’s golf businesses. Golf Channel President Mike McCarley will report to Litner and will see his role increased to include all of NBC Sports’ golf business across the broadcast network and Golf Channel.

SHANA WITTENWYLER
Litner will oversee several businesses.
The move already has taken place and sets up Litner as a second-in-command to Lazarus at NBC Sports, where he will be given responsibility over most of the group’s cable businesses.

Lazarus told his senior staff about the moves late last week. He’s planning a town hall-style meeting this week to alert the rest of NBC Sports’ staff.

Also at that meeting, Lazarus will announce plans to move almost all of the NBC Sports operations — more than 300 people — to Stamford, Conn.

Currently, NBC Sports, Versus and Comcast SportsNet operate out of several offices in Manhattan, Connecticut and Philadelphia. Golf Channel’s operations will remain in Orlando.

PAUL DRINKWATER / NBC
McCarley’s role will increase.
This move, which was first reported in a Connecticut-focused blog called Daily Ructions, would put all of NBC Sports under one roof, in a building which used to house a Clairol hair dye factory.

Versus already operates a studio out of Stamford and NBC Sports’ digital and Olympics Web team has offices there, too. NBC is building a studio for the NHL in Stamford, as well.

NBC would join other media companies in Stamford, including WWE, which has its headquarters and studio there, and YES Network, which has a studio in the city of roughly 125,000 people.

Sources said NBC Sports was attracted by tax breaks Connecticut offers to the TV and film industry. Plus, NBC Sports should save a significant amount of money moving employees from high-rent areas in Manhattan and downtown Philadelphia to a building just off of I-95.

Much of NBC Sports’ senior staff will move out of NBC’s famed 30 Rock offices and be based out of Stamford, which is around 35 miles from New York City and a 45-minute ride on MetroNorth to Grand Central. All NBC Sports sales executives will remain in New York, and there will be some offices in 30 Rock to allow executives to work out of Manhattan on occasion.

The move puts two major sports broadcast operations — ESPN and NBC — in Connecticut. Fox and CBS remain in Manhattan.

The move is viewed as a positive one for Litner, who eight months ago was named president of Versus and the RSNs by former NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol. His move is significant in that it puts a longtime Comcast executive — rather than an NBC one — in a position of power at NBC’s sports group.

It also allows Lazarus to focus on better integrating Versus with NBC Sports. Versus will be renamed NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2, and it’s expected to share more programming and talent with the broadcast network.

Ebersol, who had led NBC Sports for 22 years, left as chairman in the spring, returning at the start of the NFL season in a consultant role. Former NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer, who had been with NBC Sports for more than two decades, left the network at the end of the summer.

Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and Versus; John Miller, president of marketing for NBC Sports and Versus; Sam Flood, executive producer for NBC Sports and Versus; and NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel will continue to report into Lazarus.

Earlier this month, Lazarus hired former Turner Sports executive Greg Hughes to oversee NBC Sports’ communications department.
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