Dawn Olmstead Gets Solo Oversight of UCP, Wilshire Studios

Dawn Olmstead-Andra Shapiro-Split-Publicity-H 2018
USA Network

NBCU Cable, Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios are making some executive changes to help fill the void created by George Cheeks, who (alongside Paul Telegdy) replaced Bob Greenblatt as co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment.

Dawn Olmstead, who was promoted alongside Cheeks in January, will now have solo oversight of scripted studio Universal Cable Productions and unscripted arm Wilshire Studios and serve as president of both. Andra Shapiro has been named executive vp and general counsel, legal and business affairs, at NBCU Cable Entertainment. She takes on the business affairs duties that Cheeks relinquished when he was promoted to replace Greenblatt. The promotions, effective immediately, were announced Tuesday via an internal memo from NBCU Cable Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer. (Read the memo in full, below.) Both will continue to report to Hammer, with Shapiro also answering to Kim Harris, NBCU exec vp and general counsel.

For her part, Olmstead was tapped to serve as co-president of UCP and Wilshire Studios in January alongside Cheeks to help fill the void created when Jeff Wachtel stepped down from his role as chief content officer at NBCU. (Wachtel moved to London to serve as president of NBCU International Studios; his position was not replaced.)

Cheeks continued his rapid rise up the ranks in September, when he was promoted alongside Telegdy to serve as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, replacing Greenblatt following the executive's unexpected departure.

Olmstead had served as Wachtel's No. 2 as executive vp development at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment's Wilshire Studios and head of development at UCP. Cheeks had oversight of business affairs for NBCU's cable arm while continuing to serve in his role as president of NBC's late-night programming, the latter of which reported to Greenblatt. Given the new workload, Cheeks stepped down as president of business operations for the network, with those duties now overseen by Shapiro.

Shapiro, meanwhile, will see her newly expanded role include oversight of NBCU Cable Entertainment's business affairs group while also continuing to lead the division's legal team. Before joining the cable team as chief counsel in 2015, she spent more than two decades at Viacom overseeing both legal and business affairs at Nickelodeon.

Here is Hammer's memo:

Hi Team –

I’ve got some terrific news to share today about the executive leadership of our Studios as well as our Business Affairs group. 

Effective immediately, Dawn Olmstead will take on the title of President, Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios. She will continue to report directly to me.

Back in January, I named Dawn and George Cheeks Co-Presidents of our studios. George, as you know, accepted a new gig across the lot…and now Dawn will officially and deservedly take sole reins of the job.

Since joining our team in 2014, Dawn’s demonstrated her unique perspective as both a seasoned producer and established development executive with unrivalled connections to the creative community…a winning combination that has served our studios extremely well. Dawn and her team have had tremendous success developing breakthrough premium series for all of our networks AND in selling buzzy projects to external networks and streamers including Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

Dawn’s first project at UCP was working with the USA team on the breakout hit Mr. Robot. Last year, she shepherded The Sinner for USA, attaching executive producer and star Jessica Biel. It became the #1 new cable series of 2017 and earned Emmy, Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice nominations. Pretty impressive! And UCP’s follow up acts include…

·       Dirty John for Bravo starring Connie Britton and Eric Bana.

·       Homecoming for Amazon from Sam Esmail and starring Julia Roberts, which premiered to rave reviews at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival.

·       The Umbrella Academy for Netflix starring Oscar nominees Ellen Page and Mary J. Blige.

As for Wilshire Studios, Dawn has taken on the challenge to grow our unscripted production where we see so much potential and opportunity. She and the Wilshire team are partnering with some of the best documentary filmmakers in the business…Academy Award winner Errol Morris, Academy Award nominees Joe Berlinger and Amy Ziering to name a few. The team is also gearing up for next month’s People’s Choice Awards on E! to be broadcast to a live global audience!

Right now our studios have 50 series currently in active production around the world and over 250 projects in active development, and I couldn’t be more proud of this entire group!

Also effective today, Andra Shapiro has been named EVP & General Counsel, Legal and Business Affairs, NBCU Cable Entertainment. In her newly expanded role, Andra will take on oversight of our portfolio’s Business Affairs group while continuing to lead our Legal team.

Before joining our Cable Entertainment senior team as Chief Counsel in 2015, Andra spent 20+ years at Viacom handling both the Legal and Business Affairs groups for Nickelodeon…so Biz Affairs is nothing new to her. 

For the past three years, Andra has been leading our team of network and studio lawyers on both coasts and tackling a myriad of new legal and reputational issues confronting us as we produce new and edgier content. For obvious reasons, much of what she does isn’t shared beyond closed doors but trust me…she and her team have guided us through it all! Some of the standouts we can talk about include:  

·       For USA…Jumping in along with me and Chris this year to bring our high-profile WWE renewal deal across the finish line. And advising the network, studio and marketing teams on the multi-platform series launch of Mr. Robot and hacking the thicket of legal issues around that show.

·       For Bravo and E!...From the red carpet to the rarefied lifestyles of the Kardashians and Real Housewives, she’s a pro at lawyering the dramas of our celebrity talent.

·       For Oxygen…She and her team manage a daily legal practice of hot-button issues surrounding ripped-from- the-headlines crimes, sting operations, PI’s, confidential informants, and real-time investigations.

·       Bluprint (formerly Craftsy)…She worked closely with our Strategy & Commercial Growth team and partnered with Comcast and NBCU lawyers on our acquisition of the newest addition to our portfolio.

Andra knows the industry inside out and her expertise and counsel have been indispensable across our entire group. I’ve no doubt that our Business Affairs group will be in the best of hands.

Andra will continue to report both to Kim Harris, NBCU’s EVP & General Counsel, and to me.

Dawn and Andra are fantastic colleagues…true MVPs on the Cable Entertainment team who’ll help take the portfolio to even greater heights in their new roles. Please join me in congratulating both gals on their new gigs. 

Bonnie