Wilshire Studios Shifting Focus to Premium Docuseries, Eliminating Live Events

Dawn Olmstead will remain at the helm as the unscripted unit will attempt to place some 20 employees within other units of the company.
Photographed by Damon Casarez
Dawn Olmstead

Wilshire Studios, the unscripted arm of Universal Content Productions, is changing its focus.

The Dawn Olmstead-run division will shift from broad unscripted fare to concentrate instead on premium docuseries. As part of the change, Wilshire Studios' live events productions — E! Live From the Red Carpet and E! People's Choice Awards — will now shift to be produced by E!'s live events team.

Wilshire Studios will complete work on its current roster — E!'s True Hollywood Story, Oxygen's DNA of Murder With Paul Holes and A Lie to Die For and USA Network's Straight Up Steve Austin. Should any of those series be renewed, their respective networks would bring in new production companies to oversee subsequent seasons.

Wilshire Studios will attempt to place 20 employees within other units of the larger NBCUniversal company rather than tendering outright layoffs, though that remains an option. 

Olmstead, who landed solo oversight of Wilshire Studios and UCP in October after George Cheeks was promoted to co-chairman of NBC Entertainment (alongside Paul Telegdy), will continue in her current role. Her focus will be on growing UCP's scripted roster — which includes Hulu's The Act, Amazon's Homecoming, the final season of USA's Mr. Robot, Netflix's recently renewed Umbrella Academy and USA's The Sinner — as well as building Wilshire Studios' focus on premium docuseries.

The change in emphasis will allow Olmstead and Wilshire to zero in on more timely and topical premium unscripted fare — such as the unscripted series centering on the real-life crimes of "Dirty" John Meehan that was originally earmarked for Oxygen to run alongside corporate sibling Bravo's scripted Dirty John series. 

Olmstead first hinted at the changes coming to Wilshire Studios in a November Creative Space interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "Scripted is in this premium space, and unscripted is going there, too," she said. "In the beginning, we went to every Oscar-nominated documentarian and said, 'The Jinx happened accidentally. It was supposed to be a film. So did Making a Murderer. How about we try to do that purposefully?' … [Paradise Lost's] Joe Berlinger did our first show for Oxygen, Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers, which is the No. 1 show on Oxygen and its first foray into premium crime."