Comcast Forms Online Media Group

The cable giant restacks its Internet media deck, creating a new business focused on building new online consumer services and overseeing the firm's growing Web empire.

Cable giant Comcast Corp. said Monday that it has formed a new online media division to oversee all of the companys Web-based businesses, including its portal site.

Dubbed as Comcast Interactive Media, the business unit will focus primarily on building the Philadelphia-based cable firms broadband network and content partnerships into new online services for consumers.

The launch comes at a time when Comcast is rumored to be striking a deal with Time Warner to partner or take a stake in the firms America Online division.

Comcast veteran Amy Banse, who previously served as executive vice president of content development for the firm, has been named to head the new online media effort.

Company officials credited Banse for playing a pivotal role in overseeing the development of a number of Comcasts TV offerings, in addition to its investments in E! Entertainment, The Golf Channel and OLN.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about speculation that Google and Comcast will buy pieces of AOL.

"Were excited about the opportunities the Internet offers," Banse said in a statement. "Consumers are spending more time online and Comcast is well-positioned to take advantage of those trends."

Since at least mid-October, Comcast and search market leader Google Inc. have been rumored to be in negotiations to buy a small stake in AOL. If consummated, some experts believe that Comcast will have access to the contents of AOLs thriving Internet portal, in particular its video-on-demand section, which Comcast could use to attract more consumers to its own on-demand and Internet-based services.

Comcast executives have repeatedly downplayed the likelihood of making such a deal, but the company could stand to benefit from the opportunity to convert AOLs existing dial-up Internet customers into its broadband services.

Based on the wording of Comcasts announcement of the Interactive Media group, the type of stake the firm is rumored to be seeking in AOL would fall under the management of the new online business unit.

In other news, Comcast announced new partnerships with infrastructure technology providers Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks to help foster interoperability of the two firms products in its future network development plans.

Under the terms of the program, rolled out under the banner of Comcasts Open Transport Initiative, the three firms will work to improve compatibility between Optical and IP network layers among their equipment.

/zimages/4/28571.gifAmerica Online lends podcasting an ear. Click here to read more.

Comcast said that the initial phase of the effort will focus on providing operators with greater network and bandwidth agility. To do this, the companies plan to define a set of common interfaces with which to integrate Nortels DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing) and Cisco IP gear.

"This collaboration is a natural and much-needed step in the evolution of network technology and the interoperability of multivendor networks," Dave Fellows, chief technology officer at Comcast said in a statement.

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