10:30am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Erin Underhill Promoted to Universal TV President
Pearlena Igbokwe has selected her replacement to run Universal Television.
Erin Underhill, a homegrown talent who has been with NBCUniversal for two decades, has been promoted to serve as president of Universal Television. She will continue to report directly to Igbokwe, who previously ran the studio before she was promoted in September to serve as chairman of Universal Studio Group.
Most recently serving as exec vp drama, Underhill will now oversee all aspects of UTV's series and content library with a larger goal of growing the studio's production output. Underhill has deep relationships with the studio's top producers after starting her career in 2000 at NBC as vp drama. She has had fingerprints on such hits as Friday Night Lights, Chicago Fire, Parenthood, Southland, Bates Motel, Chuck, The West Wing, ER and, more recently, New Amsterdam, The Bold Type and Good Girls.
Underhill has also helped recruit showrunners to the studio for overall deals including Julie Plec, Margin Gero, Jenna Bans, Carol Mendelsohn, Moira Kirland and Lisa Cullen, among others.
"Throughout her 20-plus-year career at NBCUniversal, Erin has been involved with some of our company’s most iconic shows. Her extraordinary instincts for story are unmatched and valued by her team and she has earned the unqualified respect of all our producers,” Igbokwe said. “She brings a deep understanding of the industry and our studio business as well as a high level of emotional intelligence to this role. I’m excited to see her build upon what she has already contributed to the Universal Television legacy.”
Filling the UTV president role is one of three vacancies that Igbokwe is charged with filling. Universal Cable Productions president Dawn Olmstead departed earlier this month and head of NBCUniversal International Jeff Wachtel was ousted in October after two decades with the company. Igbokwe has signaled that all three divisions will continue to remain independent rather than being consolidated under one exec. That Igbokwe would promote from within shows a willingness to keep business operating as close to normal at her longtime studio home. Igbokwe had previously run UTV since taking over for Bela Bajaria in mid-2016.
“The opportunity to lead Universal Television, the only studio I’ve ever called home, is a dream come true. I’m very grateful to Pearlena for trusting and believing in me and am honored to lead what I consider to be the best team of executives in town,” Underhill said. “It’s a privilege to work with an undeniable roster of immense creative talent. Together we will continue to expand our reach and tell entertaining, escapist and authentic stories that bring meaning and connection to audiences around the world.”
Universal TV and Warner Bros. TV have both made changes at the top this year. At Warners, chairman Peter Roth announced plans to step down from his longtime perch next year. He will be replaced by former ABC and Netflix exec Channing Dungey in 2021. Meanwhile, all eyes are on Disney this week in anticipation of a reorganization that is rumored to impact its studio structure. The changes come as media titans like NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia and Disney have all been roiled by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Layoffs at all three conglomerates have been under way for months as restructuring eliminates staff redundancies as well as better positions each company for the streaming future.