The organizers of the Saban Free Clinic’s Annual Dinner Gala must have been scrambling today to update all the materials for the Monday event with the new title for the night’s top honoree, Robert Greenblatt, who today was named chairman of NBC Entertainment as part of the post-merger management structure of NBC Universal unveiled by the company’s incoming CEO Steve Burke.
Greenblatt, who will oversee the network and sister studio UMS, won’t be conducting any business, including meeting with his staff or talking to agents, until the merger is approved, something sources suggest may happen in mid-January. By then, the broadcast networks will be in the thick of picking up drama pilots, so Greenblatt would have to jump right in. He is expected to begin familiarizing himself with NBC’s development right away and will probably read pilot scripts as they come in to be able to start making greenlight decisions on Day 1. Drama has been a particularly vulnerable area for NBC with no new series introduced in the past couple of years lasting more than a season and a weak freshman drama class this fall. That makes the future of NBC’s head of drama Laura Lancaster uncertain. Greenblatt is still a ways away from making any personnel changes, but after he officially starts, he is expected to make some. In today’s memo, there was good news for 2 NBC veterans, Marc Graboff, chairman of NBC Entertainment and UMS, and Angela Bromstad, president of primetime entertainment. While the announcement didn’t mention their titles, leaving the door open to them changing, they were mentioned by name as reporting to Greenblatt in the new chain of command. That means that both are factoring into new Burke’s immediate plans for NBC. From then on, it will be up to Greenblatt. While it is not clear if or how Bromstad would fit in long-term, with his deep institutional knowledge and deal-making expertise, Graboff, fresh off signing a new 3-year deal, is probably safe. As for outsiders Greenblatt might bring in, speculation seems to be focusing on his former workplace Showtime, with Danielle Gelber, who also worked with Greenblatt at Fox, most talked about. Because his appointment is not official yet, Greenblatt did not do interviews today, but here is how he described his dream next job back in June when he left Showtime: “It’s all about innovating, building or rebuilding something. I don’t feel like walking into a place that needs a new head. It needs to be a place where I have to rethink the whole system.” Well, with the in-need-of-rebuilding NBC, Greenblatt is getting exactly what he wished for. And speaking of wishes, Ted Harbert, who is being named chairman of NBC Broadcasting, must have dreamed of triumphantly returning to NBC since he was fired as head of NBC Studios by Jeff Zucker in 2003. Of course, a similar fate has recently befallen Zucker, who was fired by Burke in September.
As for NBCU’s new (old) cable queens, Bonnie Hammer and Lauren Zalaznick, Hammer, who is being named chairman, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios, continues to be the only one to have “cable” in her title as she added the bulk of Comcast’s entertainment cable networks, including E! and G4, to her portfolio of USA, SyFy and Universal Cable Prods. (Note to job-hunting executives: E! is now looking for a new president with Harbert moving to NBC). Meanwhile, Zalaznick, whose new title is chairman, NBC Universal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media, already had an unusual mix of responsibilities, including oversight of cable channels Bravo and Oxygen, digital portal iVillage and social initiatives such as Green Is Universal. The new additions to her hodgepodge portfolio are also all over the map, including Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo and NBCU’s interest in PBS Sprout. (She is also adding Comcast cable channels Style and mun2 and digital properties Daily Candy and Fandango.)
And hinting at the pecking order at the company, in outlining the new structure Burke listed the top executives of NBCU’a thriving cable division — Hammer, Zalaznick and new cable ad sales head Dave Cassaro — first, followed by Harbert, Greenblatt and new NBC ad sales chief Marianne Gambelli.
Overall, this was probably the most dragged-out management restructuring in recent media industry history, with the exact titles of NBCU’s top TV executives as the only element of suspense left for the official announcement after most of the information had already leaked online. And the new structure probably features more chairmen (6 total) than any other media company in recent history. That last fact prompted the so-called Masked Scheduler, a (not so) anonymous TV insider with ties to NBC, to tweet this morning: “We’ll find out how many Chairpersons it takes to screw in a lightbulb.”) But when the announcement was finally made today, it was clean and straightforward, coming in the form of an internal memo from Burke whose reputation to is for being straightforward. Of course, because Comcast does not have regulatory approval yet for the merger with NBCU, the company couldn’t make a public announcement of the executive realignment, but not having to sift through a press release full of platitudes and puffy quotes was actually pretty refreshing.