Jon Litner, who today was named president of Comcast SportsNet, a collection of eight regional sports networks, claims loyalty to no particular team.
And that is probably a wise diplomatic move for a guy who grew up in Boston, most recently ran SportsNet New York, the regional network of the New York Mets that is part of the Comcast SportsNet empire, and will soon move to Phillies, Sixers and Flyers country. Comcast SportsNet carries those games locally.
"I'm a sports fan, so I have tremendous respect and admiration for what professional athletes can do on the big stage," Litner said. Pressed, he admitted that he was happy when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, but he quickly moved on to say that Boston and Philadelphia were similar in fans' devotion to their teams.
As head of SportsNet New York, Litner, 43, doubled ratings last year, although a strong Mets team helped. Litner will report to Jeff Shell, president of Comcast programming.
Litner replaces Jack Williams, 68, who started Comcast Corp.'s first sports network in 1997.
Williams said he came out of retirement 10 years ago to start SportsNet, believing that local sports would benefit from more news coverage and commentary.
Asked whether SportsNet will ever share Sixers, Phillies and Flyers games with satellite providers locally, both men noted that Comcast did let competitors Verizon Communications Inc. and RCN Corp. show those games. They said satellite company DirecTV Group Inc. has exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, a popular package of football games, as well as to other content.