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NBCUniversal continues to shake up its leadership team.
The conglomerate on Wednesday extended Bonnie Hammer’s contract and moved the 30-year company veteran to a vice chairman role in which she will serve as a key adviser to NBCU CEO Jeff Shell. Additionally, and as has been expected, the company has promoted Universal TV president Pearlena Igbokwe to chairman of NBCUniversal’s Content Studios, taking over the role previously occupied by Hammer.
Igbokwe’s new role with the studio group gives her a considerably bigger fiefdom. There had been rumblings that she was approached about the NBCUniversal entertainment programming job (which ultimately, sources say, is going to Warners’ Susan Rovner), but she ultimately elected to remain on the seller side.
Igbokwe, who has been with NBCU since arriving from Showtime in 2012, will now have oversight of Universal Television, Universal Content Productions and NBCUniversal International Studios. She will now report directly to Shell. UCP president Dawn Olmstead and NBCU International Studios president Jeff Wachtel will both now report directly to Igbokwe.
For her part, Igbokwe has deep ties to the creative community and relationships with top power players including SNL mastermind Lorne Michaels, procedural king Dick Wolf and The Good Place‘s Mike Schur, among others. Under her purview, she helped to develop series including Russian Doll, The Good Place, Superstore, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Little America, Good Girls, and the FBI franchise. Before being tapped to oversee UTV, she was exec vp drama at NBC. She spent 20 years at premium cable network Showtime, where she developed hits including Dexter and Nurse Jackie.
“This is an exciting time for our business, with demand for entertainment content at an all-time high and more distribution platforms available than ever before. Our television studios are key growth engines for the company, and Pearlena is ideally suited to lead them. She has extraordinary taste and is well-respected within NBCU, and throughout the global creative community,” said Shell.
In placing Hammer in the vice chairman role previously occupied by Ron Meyer, it positions her beside Shell in a consigliere role. While the title is the same, sources note Hammer’s duties will be different from Meyer’s. Hammer will be relied upon for her decades of programming experience at top cable networks including USA and her vast array of Hollywood relationships.
“I am extremely pleased to be gaining Bonnie as a trusted adviser,” Shell said. “Her deep industry experience, impeccable creative instincts and 25-plus years of prosocial advocacy will be immensely valuable to me and our company.” Added Hammer: “Over the course of my career at NBCUniversal, I have been fortunate to touch every aspect of the television business and I am ready to take on this new corporate role. It is the perfect next chapter and I am delighted to pass the baton to Pearlena. She has a long track record of success and is the ideal person to take the helm of the studio group.”
It should be noted that while NBCU is still run by largely white men, many of the recent moves have elevated women and people of color. In early August, Shell and NBCU TV and Streaming chairman Mark Lazarus restructured the TV ranks, promoting former Lifestyle Networks boss Frances Berwick to a new role overseeing entertainment business. Warner Bros. TV co-president Rovner is also expected to formally join NBCU in October and oversee entertainment programming. The moves give Berwick control of business decisions including scheduling, research, marketing and acquisitions, among others, for a larger group that includes NBC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen and E!, among other networks. Rovner, meanwhile, is expected to be formally given oversight of scripted, alternative, late-night and unscripted. (Their formal titles have yet to be determined.)
As part of the new hierarchy, NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy unceremoniously exited the company. His exit arrived less than a week after NBC launched an investigation into claims that Telegdy fostered a toxic culture, claims of which were detailed extensively by The Hollywood Reporter. His duties are now being folded into the entertainment programming position. It marks the first time ever that NBC has not had its own dedicated entertainment chairman. The broadcaster becomes the latest linear network to have its oversight folded into an executive with a wider scope as the TV industry better positions itself for the streaming era and looks to trim costs amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The realignment is also expected to create millions in cost savings, with redundancies among programming, marketing and scheduling divisions 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 his news division.
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