Comcast Assembles Pieces for Expanded Sports Push

Mark Lazarus, Former Turner Entertainment President, Named President of NBC Sports Cable Group

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With its acquisition of NBC Universal complete, Comcast is forging ahead with plans to use the combined companies' sports assets to take on ESPN.

Mark Lazarus
Mark Lazarus

Today Dick Ebersol, chairman of the recently formed NBC Sports Group, named Mark Lazarus, a cable veteran and former president of Turner Entertainment Group, president of the NBC Sports Cable Group, which comprises Comcast's Golf Channel, Versus and the 11 regional Comcast SportsNets.

Jon Litner, president of Comcast Sports Group, was named president of Versus and SportsNet. Mike McCarley, senior VP for strategic marketing, promotion and communications at NBC Sports, was named president of the Golf Channel.

Jon Miller, exec VP-NBC Sports, is being upped to president-programming for NBC Sports and Versus. Former Versus President Jamie Davis will work with Mr. Lazarus on strategy and planning for the NBC Sports Group "as he assesses potential roles within the Comcast family," Comcast said today.

And NBC's Sam Flood, executive producer at NBC Sports, was promoted to executive producer at NBC Sports and Versus.

Ken Schanzer continues as president of NBC Sports and becomes lead negotiator for all NBC Sports Group partnership agreements. Gary Zenkel continues as president for NBC Olympics and exec VP for strategic partnerships at NBC Sports, retaining oversight of all digital business, but he will now also lead the NBC Sports Group Olympic business across all platforms.

Mr. Ebersol was named chairman of NBC Sports Group last November, when Mr. Burke announced his first suite of executive changes at NBC Universal.

The formalization of the NBC Sports Group represents the latest step in Comcast's efforts to create a super-sports programming group that could compete with sports entertainment's biggest behemoth, Walt Disney's ESPN. Comcast SportsNet's most prominent regions include Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and the Bay Area, all of which have teams whose games could be paired with national coverage from NBC.

ESPN President George Bodenheimer addressed the then-pending Comcast-NBC Universal merger at Ad Age's Media Evolved Conference last November by noting that ESPN is always looking out for competitors.

"People often [say], 'You don't really have competition.' Everybody that works at ESPN knows that's not true," Mr. Bodenheimer said at the time. "It took me a long time to realize why people felt that way, and it's because nobody has a business like we do in all these different mediums. You'd better believe we have competitors in each one of these mediums that is ferocious. You can't have a plum business in media without having competition at every turn."

The changes also come as NBC's former chief marketing officer, John Miller, was tapped to head a new in-house marketing agency for NBC Sports. The new group will help marketing partners such as Procter & Gamble, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Mercedes-Benz conceive and produce spots for sports coverage.

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