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Padden New President of ABC Network

Television: He says he'll be more assertive than his predecessor in lobbying efforts--an area in which he has experience.

May 29, 1997|SALLIE HOFMEISTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Preston Padden has joined ABC Inc. as president of the television network, less than a month after leaving News Corp., where he was the head of American Sky Broadcasting, the company's beleaguered satellite TV venture.

Padden fills the post vacated by David Westin, who recently was named president of ABC News when Roone Arledge was promoted to chairman.

Padden said he will take a more active role than Westin did in ABC's Washington lobbying efforts. Padden, a seven-year veteran of News Corp., is credited with putting together the group of affiliate stations that strengthened the company's Fox network and with lobbying Washington to allow Chairman Rupert Murdoch, who is Australian-born, to bypass federal restrictions on foreign ownership of media properties.

Padden said he will also oversee network sales, affiliate relations, broadcast operations and engineering and network communications. Unlike Westin, however, Padden will not be in charge of network programming such as news and sports, which, he said, will report to ABC Inc. President Robert Iger.

"This should free Iger to spend more time on programming," said Padden, referring to the network's scramble to shore up its falling ratings.

Padden said part of his mandate is to convert ABC from analog to digital technologies, which enhance picture and sound quality and could allow stations to deliver multiple channels.

"This will reinvent the business of network television, which is under pressure because of the fractionalization and erosion of viewership to cable," he said.

Padden left News Corp. after his authority over ASkyB dramatically changed in February when News Corp. announced a deal to buy half of EchoStar Communications Corp.--a bid to jump-start its entry into satellite television. The EchoStar deal later unraveled.

Though News Corp. sources imply that Padden violated his contract by taking a job with another company, Padden said he expects no problems with his former employer.

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