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NBC U Realigns TV Distribution

Zaslav adds domestic-TV and digital duties 5/05/2006 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Six months after restructuring, NBC Universal is expected to announce another major realignment of its television distribution assets this week.

Global TV distribution chief Frederick Huntsberry will give up oversight of domestic TV and new digital technologies, such as iTunes, say sources familiar with the moves, to cable chief David Zaslav, whose duties expand and whose star continues to rise within the NBC U empire.

Huntsberry has been in charge of all domestic and international TV distribution since NBC’s merger with Universal two years ago and gained oversight of its global networks six months ago. He will also relinquish his title as president of Universal Pictures Group’s international operations, say sources.

But he will remain the company’s international czar of television. Now Huntsberry will report directly to Chairman Bob Wright. President/COO Randy Falco had been given oversight of the company’s international distribution and channels last December under an earlier restructuring that lifted Jeff Zucker to the CEO role.

In his new role as president of NBC U International, Huntsberry will work closely with the heads of theatrical distribution, home entertainment and CNBC’s international divisions on some television matters.

Zaslav, currently president of NBC U Cable, will have an expanded title that was still being worked out at press time. He will inherit off-net and first-run production under NBC U Domestic Television Distribution President Barry Wallach, who remains in that role.

While continuing to oversee domestic cable, satellite and telco-related operations for NBC U, Zaslav and his boss, Falco, will also inherit domestic electronic sell-through (EST, or selling content to such platforms as iTunes) and TV wireless distribution. Zaslav will be charged with integrating various digital-wireless strategies, which had formerly been handled separately within the cable and distribution divisions. Universal Pictures recently named Jeremy Laws to oversee the area on the movie side.

But NBC U Digital Media and Market Development President Beth Comstock, to whom Huntsberry reported, will still maintain ultimate responsibility over all of NBC U’s global wireless strategy despite the changes. She and her team will work closely with Zaslav.

NBC U insiders say the realignment is intended to centralize distribution and the emerging-technology business models, with the hope of spurring growth and “enhancing capabilities” both domestically and internationally.

The earlier restructuring was described as a way to improve coordination between its broadcast and cable networks, as well as the content and distribution teams. It was also meant to signal its transition into a digital-media company.

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