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Beatrice Springborn is on the move.
After more than six years as vp original content at Disney-owned Hulu, Springborn has been named president of Universal Content Productions. Springborn, the latest exec to make the shift from buyer to seller, will take over the post previously occupied by Dawn Olmstead, who departed Nov. 2 for the top post at management and film/TV production company Anonymous Content.
Springborn will report directly to Universal Studio Group chairman Pearlena Igbokwe, who was promoted earlier this year and oversees all of NBCUniversal’s TV studio efforts. In her new role, Springborn will oversee all of UCP’s content, including originals for third-party buyers like Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy and upcoming in-house series Dr. Death, Joe Exotic and The Girl From Plainville. Her primary focus will be to grow the studio’s production output. She inherits a roster of showrunners with overall deals at UCP including Seth MacFarlane (whose pact is across all of NBCUni), Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail and Tanya Saracho (Vida), among others.
“If you want to build a winning team, you have to draft all-star players,” Igbokwe said. “Beatrice has broad industry experience and is one of the town’s most respected executives. The distinctive series that she has championed throughout her career speak to her creative instincts and I’m confident that she is the right person to grow the UCP brand while continuing to position the studio as one of the industry’s leading suppliers of premium television.”
During her tenure at Hulu, Springborn was instrumental to the now Disney-owned streamer’s success. As vp content development, she oversaw comedy and drama development, castings and co-productions. She was instrumental in securing rights to book-based IP including The Handmaid’s Tale (which became the first streaming show to win best drama), Normal People, Little Fires Everywhere, The Looming Tower, Shrill and several others. She has developed hits including The Great, Ramy, Castle Rock, Pen15 as well as Wu Tang: An American Saga, The First and animated comedies Crossing Swords and Solar Opposites.
Springborn also has deep ties to UCP and sibling studio Universal TV, having overseen the studio’s The Act, Difficult People, The Mindy Project, Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Path. She also has ties to MacFarlane, whose former Fox show The Orville, moved to Hulu. Before joining Hulu, Springborn was head of television for Craig Zadan and Neil Meron’s Storyline Entertainment, which had deals at UTV and NBCInternational.
“I have long admired Pearlena’s work at UTV and now Universal Studio Group. She and her team approach the business with an entrepreneurial, innovative and creative spirit while Dawn Olmstead and her team built UCP into a studio known for its best-in-class talent and series,” Springborn said. “I’m thrilled to join such an impressive organization that aligns with so much of what I have done and am excited to have the opportunity to further their tremendous growth. The last six and a half years at Hulu have been nothing short of life-changing and wonderful. I’ve been so proud and inspired by our work and now I can’t wait to be a fan. I’m filled with enormous gratitude for Dana Walden, Peter Rice, Kelly Campbell and, most importantly, Craig Erwich, my biggest advocate and mentor.”
The timing of Springborn’s Hulu departure comes after Hulu added a number of senior decision-makers after it became part of the Disney fold in May 2019. Disney integrated Hulu’s scripted originals team, including senior vp Craig Erwich, under chairman of entertainment Dana Walden. FX CEO John Landgraf also oversees the FX on Hulu roster of first-run originals on the streamer.
It’s unclear if Springborn’s role will be replaced as Disney recently kicked off a massive wave of restructuring that prioritizes streaming. Peter Rice, chairman of Disney’s General Entertainment Content unit, recently ditched the company’s longtime legacy structure in favor of creating centralized groups that are instead focused on content.
Since being promoted in September, Igbokwe has moved quickly to replace herself as president of Universal Television (she promoted Erin Underhill to the post) and Olmstead at UCP (with Springborn). Next up for Igbokwe is finding a new head of NBCUniversal International after 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.
Springborn is the latest executive to change jobs in the TV sector this year. The changes are being fueled by economic pressure as media titans have been roiled by the novel coronavirus pandemic. That has forced many conglomerates to better position themselves for the streaming era, which has only been accelerated by the pandemic.
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