Susan Rovner Sets Heads of Scripted, Alternative and Late Night at NBCUniversal

Susan Rovner
Courtesy of NBCU

Susan Rovner has installed her programming leaders at NBCUniversal.

More than a month after making the leap from Warner Bros. TV to become chairman of entertainment content at NBCUniversal TV and streaming, Rovner has promoted from within the company and installed Lisa Katz to oversee scripted; Rod Aissa and Jenny Groom to run unscripted; Katie Hockmeyer as the guardian of late night; Tracie Wilson to steer syndication; and Jen Neal to drive specials and live events.

"The level of experience, expertise and creativity in this collective group is overwhelming, and I am thrilled by the sheer idea of the great television we are all going to make together," Rovner said in a memo to staff Tuesday. (Read that in full, below.)

One name notably absent from the announcement is Bill McGoldrick, who most recently served as head of originals at Peacock, USA Network and Syfy. McGoldrick, who was among the candidates for Rovner's position, has now opted to leave the company after he was personally recruited by NBCUni vice chair Bonnie Hammer to oversee programming for the streamer. (More on McGoldrick's exit here.)

As part of NBCUniversal's new structure, Rovner and her new department heads will be charged with overseeing entertainment content for a portfolio that includes streamer Peacock, broadcast network NBC and cablers USA Network, Syfy, Oxygen, Bravo, E! and Universal Kids. The changes will see Rovner and her genre leaders consolidate teams from each of NBCUniversal's brands. That means execs who may have been part of NBC's scripted team will now expand duties to include other brands in NBCUniversal's sprawling portfolio.

With the announcement of Rovner's team, NBCUniversal's new senior executive structure is effectively complete. Frances Berwick, who was promoted Aug. 8 to lead NBCUniversal's entertainment business unit, in September installed her heads of marketing, research, acquisitions, business affairs, finance and PR. Berwick's team, similar to Rovner's, will oversee those business-related functions for all of NBCUniversal's various platforms and networks. (Peacock, though, will retain its own PR and marketing teams.)

A major round of layoffs is expected to come as a result of the television and streaming restructuring. As with every consolidation, redundancies across all departments will be the first to be eliminated. Hundreds of employees are expected to be impacted by the forthcoming wave of layoffs. NBCU's theme park unit, sports division and Telemundo underwent layoffs earlier this year as a result of the company's economic downturn prompted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic, which has caused massive revenue hits across the entertainment industry, has prompted most major conglomerates to restructure. NBCUniversal, Disney and WarnerMedia have all reshaped their executive ranks in a bid to both better position themselves for the streaming era as well as cut costs by consolidating resources and eliminating staffing redundancies. All three media titans have had multiple rounds of layoffs, with more on the way as Disney has only recently begun its reorganization.

As part of the NBCUni changes, beloved USA and Syfy president Chris McCumber exited in September as a result of the restructuring. NBC entertainment president Paul Telegdy and his top unscripted exec, Meredith Ahr, were both pushed out after an investigation at company found that they fostered a toxic culture, allegations of which were first detailed by The Hollywood Reporter. Rovner's team will now be charged with overseeing content for all three networks.

For her part, Katz — who sources say recently renewed her deal with NBCU — will serve as president of scripted content for the entire portfolio. The former NBC drama head spent the past three years serving as co-president of scripted at the broadcast network. (Tracey Pakosta, who alongside Katz was co-president of scripted at NBC, moved to Netflix this week to oversee comedy.) Katz, who first joined NBC in 2016, was among the first execs to discover and develop mega-hit This Is Us and has developed series including Good Girls and Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. The former vp drama at 20th Television has deep ties in the creative community and has relationships with Dan Fogelman (This Is Us), Dick Wolf (Law & Order: SVU), Lee Daniels (Empire) and Hart Hanson (Bones), among others. 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.

The unscripted side, which features nearly 200 projects across eight platforms, will be divided into two areas. E! and Oxygen's Aissa will oversee all unscripted lifestyle and documentary programming as exec vp unscripted content. One of Berwick's former direct reports, Aissa joined NBCUni in 2012 as Oxygen's senior vp originals. In 2017, rebranded Oxygen as a true crime-focused network and added E! to his purview two years later. Most recently, he served as exec vp originals at Oxygen and E! production, where he oversaw Keeping Up With the Kardashians and the recently renewed The Bradshaw Bunch.

Groom, meanwhile, will have the same title and focus on reality and talent competition and game shows across the company. After starting as a page with NBC in 2003, Groom became part of Telegdy and Ahr's alternative team at the network. She will now have oversight of The Voice, America's Got Talent, Ellen's Game of Games and American Ninja Warrior, among other hits. Her promotion allows for a seamless transition as the division had been rocked by Telegdy and Ahr's forced exits.

Hockmeyer, meanwhile, now serves as exec vp late night. This marks a rapid rise for Hockmeyer, who started her career in 2002 in NBC's legendary page program. From there, she became an executive assistant in the offices of Lorne Michaels and former NBC Entertainment chief Jeff Zucker, giving her experience in late night, programming, news and sports. She started working with Jimmy Fallon in 2009 on Late Night as a key member of his production team and moved with the host to L.A. for The Tonight Show in 2014, where she spent two years as showrunner. She was promoted to exec vp late night in September 2019. In her current role, the five-time Emmy nominee has deep ties with Michaels and oversees NBC's late night offerings including The Tonight Show, Late Night With Seth Meyers, Saturday Night Live and A Little Late With Lilly Singh.

Wilson, as exec vp syndication studios, led the launch of The Kelly Clarkson Show and oversaw the Access rebranding. She is a 17-year NBCUni veteran.

Rounding out Rovner's team is Neal, another former Berwick report who led live events and news divisions at E! and was instrumental in bringing the People's Choice Awards to the cabler. She will now expand her purview as exec vp live events, specials and E! News.

Here's Rovner's memo in full:

Hi everyone, First, I just want to say what a remarkable month it’s been. I’ve spent the better part of it becoming immersed in this incredible organization, meeting many new people and watching A LOT of television. A big thank you to everyone who has shared their expertise and helped me get up to speed.

I accepted this role because Jeff Shell’s and Mark Lazarus’ vision for this new organization was so compelling that it became undeniable.  Spending these past few weeks with the people charged with executing that vision — not only Jeff and Mark, but also Frances, Matt and their leadership teams — have given me great confidence that together we’re going to be able to fulfill on that promise of building an unrivaled home for both storytellers and audiences alike.

And now, I am excited to introduce another group of tremendous leaders to this division. Each of these executives will be charged with finding, developing and nurturing the best content in their respective areas, working across the entertainment television and streaming portfolio — NBC, our six cable networks (Bravo, E!, Oxygen, Syfy, Universal Kids, USA), and Peacock.

Lisa Katz, who in her previous role as co-president of scripted programming for NBC developed and championed critically acclaimed shows including This Is Us, Good Girls and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist as well as breakout hits Manifest and New Amsterdam, will grow her purview as President, Scripted Content, where she will be responsible for developmentcurrent programming and casting across entertainment television and streaming.

With nearly 200 unscripted projects across our eight platforms, we are breaking up unscripted into two areas: 

Rod Aissa, who has shepherded E!’s production slate with hits like Keeping Up With the Kardashians and The Bradshaw Bunch during his tenure running programming for Oxygen and E!, will be EVP, Unscripted Content, overseeing all unscripted lifestyle and documentary programming across the portfolio.

Jenny Groom, an NBC veteran who currently oversees unscripted mega-brands like The Voice, America’s Got Talent, Ellen’s Game of Games and American Ninja Warrior, will be expanding her role as EVP, Unscripted Content to include the oversight of reality competition, talent competition, and game show formats across the portfolio.

Tracie Wilson, who led the launch of the successful The Kelly Clarkson Show and spearheaded the Access rebrand, will be EVP, Syndication Studios.

Katie Hockmeyer, who has played a vital role leading late night programming for Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night With Seth Meyers and A Little Late with Lilly Singh, will continue in her role as EVP, Late Night.

Jen Neal, who has led E!’s Live Events and News divisions including bringing the highly successful The People’s Choice Awards to the network, will expand her expertise across entertainment television and streaming as EVP, Live Events, Specials and E! News.

We very much appreciate your patience and support as these leaders work to thoughtfully align their teams and develop their own organizational structures, which will take place over the next few months.

The level of experience, expertise and creativity in this collective group is overwhelming, and I am thrilled by the sheer idea of the great television we are all going to make together.