Frances Berwick Sets Senior Leadership Team at NBCUniversal

Frances Berwick

Frances Berwick

A month into her new role overseeing NBCUniversal's entertainment business units, Frances Berwick has set her senior leadership team.

Jeff Bader, who was promoted to NBCUniversal's chief research officer in May 2019, will oversee all things program planning for Berwick's team and also work across the six cable entertainment networks. Bader last year added oversight of all of NBCU's television properties — including cable networks Bravo, USA, Syfy and Oxygen — in addition to spearheading the corporate research group. He will be charged with optimizing viewing across all platforms and driving content windowing.

Val Boreland will expand her duties of buying and curating content from the entertainment and lifestyle cable group to also oversee acquisitions across all networks and Peacock. Liz Mahaffey will be charged with managing corporate research and leading Peacock's consumer insights team and expand to include all entertainment brands. Lauren McCollester will head business affairs after being with the company for 20 years.

Jennifer Storms, who was already chief marketing officer and exec vp content strategy at NBC Sports Group, will grow add entertainment marketing to her purview. (She will continue reporting to NBC Sports group president Pete Bevacqua.) With Storms taking on a broader marketing role, longtime NBC marketing chief Len Fogge will depart the company following a period of transition. He has led NBC's marketing team for nearly a decade.

Holly Tang will oversee finance across the entertainment content and business division.

NBC's Chip Sullivan, who joined the network from DreamWorks in 2015 reporting to former entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, will oversee communications and expand his oversight to include USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen and E!.

Peacock will retain its own PR team and marketing teams.

"By aligning resources and harnessing expertise from across our portfolio, we can build centralized teams that are more nimble, innovative and overall better equipped to compete in this ever-evolving content landscape," Berwick wrote in a memo to staff Wednesday. (Read it in full, below.)

The execs will now expand their purview to include all of NBCU's platforms, including streamer Peacock, NBC, USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen and E!, among others.

Berwick, the former Lifestyle Networks chief, was promoted Aug. 6 as part of a major restructuring at NBCU. While her formal title has yet to be solidified, she now oversees a considerably larger portfolio for the conglomerate that will see her set the broader tone for the entertainment networks, budgets, acquisitions, research and marketing. Berwick will also develop and implement strategies for which content is picked up and how to best launch it across NBCU's multiple brands.

A major round of layoffs is expected to come as a result of the restructuring, which is being overseen by NBCU CEO Jeff Shell and streaming and TV chairman Mark Lazarus. The restructuring shifts the entertainment division from a vertical structure in which teams were organized by executives to a horizontal one in which divisions are divvied up by shared responsibilities. That means NBCUniversal will have one centralized studio group — overseen by the newly promoted Pearlena Igbokwe; a centralized entertainment networks group (overseen by former Warner Bros. co-president Susan Rovner) and Berwick's group, which handles the business side.

Rovner, for example, will lead centralized content groups covering scripted, unscripted, alternative and late night. So executives who previously oversaw alternative programming for NBC will now do so for all of NBCU's various brands, including USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen and E!, among others.    The realignment is also expected to create millions in cost savings, with redundancies among divisions including programming, marketing and scheduling expected to be eliminated in a bid to create a more unified and leaner company. It is a similar approach Shell put in place in May with the news division.

Berwick was promoted Aug. 8 to lead a new entertainment business unit that gave the 30-year company exec oversight of programming strategy and content across all the TV entertainment networks. As part of the restructuring, NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy was pushed out at the company. His exit arrived less than a week after NBC launched an investigation into claims that Telegdy and his top unscripted lieutenant fostered a toxic culture, which were detailed extensively by The Hollywood Reporter. Telegdy's responsibilities were folded into the duties that Rovner is expected to take on when she begins her new role in October.

Here's Berwick's full memo:

Dear Entertainment Team,  

I’ve had the pleasure of spending some time during these last few weeks with leaders across our groups.  As we begin to build our new division, I have been consistently impressed, although not at all surprised, at the level of talent and expertise we have within our midst.    

On that note, I want to share the new leadership team who will report into me under the entertainment business division.  These executives were selected from across the portfolio for their deep knowledge, diverse set of experiences and desire to lean into change as a force to bring our business into the future.    

Jeff Bader will lead program planning, adding the six cable entertainment networks to his current NBC oversight, bringing his vast programming experience to optimize viewing across all platforms and drive strategic windowing of content.      

Val Boreland will expand her responsibilities of buying and expertly curating content across the Entertainment and Lifestyle cable group to oversee acquisitions across all of our networks and platforms including Peacock.  

Liz Mahaffey, who has been instrumental to Peacock’s successful launch as the leader of their consumer insights team, will now add to her remit research and insights for the entertainment brands, centralizing and prioritizing our audience intelligence efforts and driving cross platform insights.  She will also manage the corporate research function.  

Lauren McCollester will bring her strategic outlook, dynamic industry acumen and top deal-making skills to our division as head of business affairs, following her rise through the ranks over a 20-year career at NBCUniversal.  

Jenny Storms will build upon her successes at NBC Sports by adding entertainment marketing to her purview (she will continue to report into Pete Bevacqua, President, NBC Sports Group for her sports responsibilities).  As head of marketing for our group, Jenny’s transformational view on consumer engagement will amplify the impact of our programming and IP.   

Chip Sullivan, who has expertly led communications for NBC Entertainment for the past five years, will now take on the role of head of communications across all of our entertainment networks.  Chip’s responsibilities will encompass internal and external communications, publicity and talent relations.  

And, as Christy Shibata, Chief Financial Officer, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, shared on Monday, Holly Tang will lead finance across the entertainment content and business division.    

Please join me in congratulating this exceptional group of leaders.  We are all looking forward to boldly rethinking how we do business together.  

In the meantime, thank you in advance for your patience as these leaders work to map out each of their organizations.  Our goal is to bring clarity as quickly as possible keeping in mind that our top priority is to make decisions in a thoughtful and informed way.    

Change can cause uncertainty, and I do not underestimate the difficulty of navigating this time while also doing all that is required to keep creating great content and keeping our consumers engaged.  Again, thank you.    

And while change can bring challenges, it also brings opportunity.  By aligning resources and harnessing expertise from across our portfolio, we can build centralized teams that are more nimble, innovative, and overall better equipped to compete in this ever-evolving content landscape.