Stephanie Lafair Smith joined Comcast SportsNet before a name had been chosen.
"We didn't have a name, a logo, programming or talent," Smith said yesterday.
Almost 10 years later, CSN is established as the TV sports destination in the region. And Smith is now running the place.
Jon Litner, president of Comcast SportsNet, has promoted Smith to president of CSN Philadelphia.
For the past 5 years, Smith served as CSN Philly's senior vice president and general manager.
"She's extremely bright and creative," said Jack Williams, who recently was succeeded by Litner. "She's been a big part of our success. She has the ability to look at something and see things that other people don't see."
Williams is continuing as chairman of Comcast SportsNet.
Smith, whose background is in marketing, recalled her first interview with Williams.
"He was cautious, because he was looking at people with a sports background," she said. "I kept saying, being able to talk X's and O's might be great, but that's not going to brand your network.
"[CSN Philly] is Jack's vision. He wanted this to have a big-league look for a regional network. The amount of original programming is what differentiated us from the start. He hired the right people and let them do their thing."
"Daily News Live" (5 p.m., Monday through Friday) was the first show to air on CSN Philly on Oct. 1, 1997.
Smith's vision for CSN Philly is for it to continue as a pacesetter in the CSN family.
"As we keep growing, I like to make sure that Philadelphia is still the flagship store," she said.
"The thing we pride ourselves the most is our retention of employees. Look at our talent that's been here since the beginning; very little turnover. The turnover that's happened has been to other markets. Pat Boyle is in Chicago, Matt Yallofis now with SportsNet New York." *