NBC, less than a week after losing entertainment president Jennifer Salke to Amazon, has promoted from within to fill the void.
Drama head Lisa Katz and comedy topper Tracey Pakosta will together serve as co-presidents of scripted programming for the network. The duo, who formerly reported to Salke, will now answer to NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt. Pakosta and Katz will also oversee business affairs on the scripted side, with scripted production now overseen by Universal Television president Pearlena Igbokwe. Igbokwe, who previously reported to Salke, will now answer to Greenblatt. (Salke had added scripted production and business affairs duties in January.)
“Lisa and Tracey have impeccable taste, strong leadership and a deep understanding of the NBC brand,” Greenblatt said Thursday in a statement. “It was Lisa who was one of the first to discover and cultivate what is now the phenomena of This Is Us, and she continues to bring that astute eye to all the she does for NBC; and Tracey has shepherded in a new era of smart comedies, reigniting audiences to once again tune in on Thursday nights. Their relationships with top showrunners and talent are second to none, and I have no doubt their combined experience and expertise will build on the incredible momentum the network has right now.”
Katz joined NBC as executive vp drama in July 2016, replacing Igbokwe, who was promoted to run Universal Television. In the time that followed, she has developed The Brave, Good Girls and Rise for NBC. The role marked a reunion with Salke, with the duo previously collaborating when Katz was senior vp drama at 20th Century Fox TV. Katz has relationships with Lee Daniels (Empire, Star), Hart Hanson (Bones) and This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman (having worked with him on Fox's short-lived baseball drama Pitch). Before 20th, she spent seven years at Brillstein Grey, working on both comedy and drama series including The Sopranos, Just Shoot Me and The Steve Harvey Show.
Former executive vp comedy Pakosta, meanwhile, moved from Universal Television to NBC in 2015 and replaced Vernon Sanders in the position. (Sanders, formerly head of current programming, stepped down in November in favor of a producing deal with the studio, for whom he is producing NBC drama pilot The Enemy Within. (Twenty-year NBC vet Bruce Evans replaced Sanders as exec vp current, reporting to Salke.) Pakosta, who has been with the NBCUniversal family since 2011, has helped reinvigorate NBC's comedy brand with Mike Schur's The Good Place, Superstore and the Will & Grace revival (both already renewed for next season). During her time with Universal TV, she helped develop Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Mindy Project and Parks and Recreation. Before joining the studio, Pakosta was a partner at Green Mountain West, Craig Ferguson's CBS Television Studios-based production company. She also spent more than a decade at the former WB Network, serving as exec vp comedy and developing shows including Reba and What I Like About You.
The decision to promote from within comes as NBC recently overtook CBS among total viewers for the first time since 2002 based on the strength of the Super Bowl, Winter Olympics, Sunday Night Football and breakout family drama This Is Us. The network is up 7 percent among total viewers and 2 percent in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic thus far this season.
Katz and Pakosta's promotions come as NBC has recently shuffled its executive ranks. In January, Salke added oversight of business affairs and production for scripted programming after George Cheeks was named co-president of cable-focused scripted studio Universal Cable Productions and unscripted counterpart Wilshire Studios. Cheeks, long considered a rising star within NBC, where he has been since 2012 (he continues to serve as president of NBC's late-night programming, reporting directly to Greenblatt on that side), co-leads UCP and Wilshire Studios with Dawn Olmstead, reporting to NBCU Cable Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer. The duo took over UCP and Wilshire leadership after Jeff Wachtel stepped down from his role as chief content officer at NBCU in favor of moving to London to serve as president of NBCU International Studios. His role as chief content officer is not being replaced. Olmstead had been Wachtel's No. 2. With Salke taking over scripted production and business affairs, Paul Telegdy, president of NBC's alternative and reality group, took on the same roles on the unscripted and alternative side as well as full oversight of first-run syndication (which had been under Cheeks' purview).