January 24, 1996

NBC Names Executive for Cable Venture With Microsoft


NEW YORK -- NBC on Tuesday appointed Mark Harrington, a longtime CBS executive, to be vice president and general manager of its new all-news cable network, currently called MSNBC.

The channel, which could be operating as early as July and may be renamed, is a co-venture between NBC and Microsoft Corp. Harrington will report to Andrew Lack, the president of NBC News, who is in charge of MSNBC.

NBC plans to transform its current America's Talking cable channel into the new all-news outlet, to be accompanied by extensive information provided by Microsoft for use on the Internet. NBC sold a 50 percent stake in the new channel to Microsoft last month.

Harrington, who has been with CBS for 25 years, has most recently been the senior vice president of new media for the network, but he has an extensive background in producing both news coverage and Olympic coverage for CBS.

CBS agreed to let Harrington out of his contract to take the NBC job, Harrington said. "It was a decision of timing," he added. "CBS may well get into businesses like this in the future, but this was real. It was there, an opportunity to do something new and challenging. I felt if I passed it by, I would regret it."

Staff members at CBS News said Tuesday that the loss of Harrington was another blow to the troubled network because he was among the most highly respected executives in the company, which was acquired last year by Westinghouse Electric Corp.

"This defection is not a vote of no confidence in the new Westinghouse team at CBS," one senior network executive said. "But we are reaping the whirlwind of not being for years the kind of place that provides opportunities like this for talented people."

Under its former chairman, Laurence Tisch, CBS resisted investing in cable channels. CBS remains the only network without any significant investments in cable. Both NBC and ABC have already announced plans to start all-news cable channels to compete with the Cable News Network. Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox and its parent, News Corp., has said that his company will also try to start a news channel.

Andrew Heyward, the new president of CBS News, who worked with Harrington in several capacities at CBS, said, "I think we have to make sure that CBS becomes a place where the Mark Harringtons of the world are fully utilized."

"I think the world of Mark," he added. "He's a terrific choice and I wish him a great deal of luck -- within reason."

Harrington joined CBS News as an associate producer in 1970. He went on to become a producer for "CBS Morning News," and the anchor-producer for both Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather.

From 1989 to 1994, Harrington was vice president in charge of the network's Olympic coverage for the winter Games in Albertville, France, and Lillehammer, Norway.

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