Bonnie Hammer Trades Peacock for Studios Oversight

NEW-Bonnie Hammer, Matt Strauss and Paul Telegdy-Getty-H 2019
Getty Images; Joseph Moran; Getty Images

There's a massive game of executive musical chairs at NBCUniversal.

Bonnie Hammer, who previously served as chairman of streamer Peacock, is moving to oversee the company's newly combined studio efforts — Universal TV and Universal Content Productions — as those operations are centralized. Hammer will no longer have oversight of the direct-to-consumer streaming platform. Instead, Comcast's Matt Strauss will take on oversight of the forthcoming ad-supported platform. Hammer's new title will be chairman of NBCUniversal Content Studios, while Strauss will now serve as Peacock chairman. 

Additionally, George Cheeks — who was promoted last year to co-chairman of NBC Entertainment alongside Paul Telegdy — has been tapped to serve as vice chairman of NBCUniversal Content Studios, reporting to Hammer. That leaves Telegdy as the broadcast network's lone entertainment chairman. He continues to report to Jeff Shell, NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment chairman. Mark Lazarus will continue as chairman of NBCU's broadcast, cable, sports and news. 

The changes are effective immediately.

“Bonnie’s great taste, deep Hollywood relationships and strong track record of generating popular and award-winning programming make her ideally suited to oversee this new division. With our studios being a main pipeline for Peacock’s original content, she will continue to be integral to the future success of our streaming business,” NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, to whom Hammer will report, said Monday in a statement. “I worked with Matt for many years at Comcast Cable, and know firsthand that he is one of the most talented leaders in our company. He has great experience with video, digital technology and streaming and is the right person for the role at this juncture.”

For Cheeks, his new role will see him continue to oversee late-night programming for NBC. Universal TV president Pearlena Igbokwe and UCP president Dawn Olmstead will continue in their current roles and will now report directly to Hammer and Cheeks.

For his part, Strauss most recently was executive vp Xfinity Services for Comcast Cable, where he oversaw video, internet, home and voice business. He is among the pioneers of the VOD platform and launched X1, cloud DVR, live in-home streaming across devices, the talking guide and the voice remote.

For Hammer, meanwhile, the new role could be considered a downgrade. While she had been charged with launching Peacock, she will now oversee the content pipeline on the merged studios operations. USA and Syfy's Bill McGoldrick had been doing that job under Hammer, as he added programming oversight for the streamer to his purview. McGoldrick has spent the past year moving programming around NBCUniversal's portfolio. Shows like Dirty John moved from Bravo to USA, while USA's Brave New World hopped over to the streamer. McGoldrick will now report to Strauss and Lazarus (instead of Hammer). 

The changes arrive less than a month after Hammer unveiled her plans for Peacock with a round of interviews, including with The Hollywood Reporter. Peacock will launch in the spring with 15,000 hours of programming, including libraries for The Office and Parks and Recreation (both exclusively), as well as scripted originals from Mike Schur (The Good Place) and Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot). The streamer is also rebooting NBCU-owned IP including Saved by the Bell, Battlestar Galactica and Punky Brewster. News and sports will also play a big part in Peacock, though that has not yet been unveiled. 

In a larger sense, merging Universal TV and UCP makes sense. Both studios are focused on selling to outside suppliers as well as platforms beyond NBC. UCP — which recently changed its name from Universal Cable Productions to better reflect its purpose — continues to remain a supplier to cable networks Syfy and USA as well as Netflix, among others. Universal TV has shows across broadcast as well as cable and streaming.  

Cheeks, meanwhile, returns to his studio roots after a year running NBC alongside Telegdy. Before being tapped to help replace NBC Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, Cheeks had been serving as co-president of UCP and unscripted sibling Wilshire Studios as well as president of late-night programming at NBC Entertainment. He was promoted in January 2018 to run UCP and Wilshire following Jeff Wachtel's departure. Cheeks already had oversight of business affairs for NBCU's cable arm on top of his role overseeing NBC's late-night programming, the latter of which reported directly to Greenblatt. At the time, Cheeks stepped down as president of business operations for the network. NBC instead divided production and business affairs into their respective homes on the scripted and alternative sides. Cheeks had long been considered a rising star at NBC after joining the network in 2012.

Burke's memo to staff about all the changes is below.

I am writing to announce some organizational changes that are part of the company’s evolving strategy to address the changing media landscape. 

With the increase in places to view content, including the launch of Peacock, it has become increasingly clear that we need a single television studio group to produce for a variety of platforms. Therefore, today we are announcing the creation of NBCUniversal Content Studios, bringing together Universal Content Productions and Universal Television in one division, and I have asked Bonnie Hammer to lead this new unit. Bonnie is a great creative executive and the perfect leader for this key role. I want to thank Bonnie for getting Peacock off to such a fantastic start by doing what she does best — developing a strong brand and powerful programming slate. 

I also want to give a warm welcome to Matt Strauss, who will be joining us from Comcast Cable to lead Peacock and Digital Enterprises. Matt brings a wealth of distribution, digital, and streaming expertise to NBCUniversal, which will be invaluable as we continue to build our direct-to-consumer business.

Additionally, George Cheeks, who has done an outstanding job along with Paul Telegdy leading NBC Entertainment, will become Vice Chairman of the new studio business. NBC Entertainment will remain in great hands with Paul as sole chairman. 

We are fortunate to have such strong leaders across our organization who can seamlessly move into these roles. Please join me in congratulating them and see the press release below for more information.