USA promotes Jeff Wachtel

Named president of original programming

USA Network's programming chief Jeff Wachtel is getting an overdue title bump.

Wachtel, who had served as exec vp original programming since joining USA in 2001, has been named president of original programming for the cable network and has inked a multiyear contract extension.

Wachtel will continue to oversee all USA original programming, scripted and unscripted series and longform and also will continue in his role as co-head of original content for sister studio Universal Cable Prods. He reports to Bonnie Hammer, president of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and UCP.

"He is very deserving," Hammer said. "He has done an amazing job in development and execution of USA's series, working within the specific parameters of the network's brand, which is not easy."

Wachtel has been key to USA's ascendance to No. 1 in cable ratings, a position it has held for the past three years with its "Characters Welcome"-themed shows.

The channel is aiming even higher, Hammer said.

"Our goal is to erase the line between broadcast and cable, to make USA the hottest and most successful TV brand out there, and we have the best team to make that happen," she said.

Last year, NBC Universal's CEO Jeff Zucker called the highly profitable USA "probably the single most important entity within the entire portfolio."

Wachtel has been ripe for promotion especially after his top lieutenant Jackie de Crinis was upped to exec vp original scripted programming in September, sharing exec vp stripes with her boss.

Since joining USA, Wachtel has overseen the development and launch of signature series "Monk," "Psych" and "Burn Notice" as well as the network's most recent series additions: NBC transplant "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," promising freshman "In Plain Sight" and the upcoming "Royal Pains."

"Monk" creator Andy Breckman recalled how Wachtel championed his rejected-by-ABC script and went out of his way to get Tony Shalhoub for the lead.

"Jeff acted as the show's midwife," he said. "He didn't get me pregnant, as the show had been written, but he definitely delivered and saved the baby."

"Burn Notice" creator Matt Nix described his pitch meeting with Wachtel as "odd."

"He told me exactly what he thought -- an experience you don't get very often in Hollywood," Nix said. "He knows what he wants, he asks for what he wants, and when you deliver it, he knows when he's got it."