PICKING NO. 1 VS. NO. 2 HAS NEVER BEEN harder than it was this year, with the white-hot Hammer having doubled her cable portfolio at NBCUniversal in February. With a stellar reputation, and wind at her back, Hammer already was running the conglom's biggest, most profitable portfolio (E!, Syfy and USA, which is marking its eighth year as cable's top-rated entertainment network) when CEO Steve Burke gave her oversight of Bravo, Oxygen, Sprout, TVOne and Style, which she relaunched in September as Esquire Network. Her division will contribute $5.5 billion in revenue and more than half of NBC's total profit in 2013, and Hammer has wasted no time switching up her executive team. She admits Esquire is a tough proposition ("It's a gazillion times harder to launch a new channel in this environment"). But she refuses to be satisfied with the job she's done. She's trying to give each channel a clear identity, such as reinventing E! for more upscale 30-somethings, Oxygen for younger women, and so on. "The truth is, right now everything needs work," says Hammer, who lives in Westport, Conn., with her husband. (She has two kids, a college-age son and grown daughter.) "From Esquire to USA, which makes more profit than most everything, you can never just settle in and say, 'We're good enough.' " -- M.G.
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