EXCLUSIVE: USA Network veteran Jeff Wachtel is getting a bigger role in the recently merged NBCUniversal entertainment cable operations under chairman Bonnie Hammer. Wachtel, most recently co-president of USA and co-head, original content, Universal Cable Prods, has been promoted to the newly created position of President and Chief Content Officer, NBCU Cable Entertainment. In that role, Wachtel will serve as a creative point of entry for the company’s entire portfolio of 12 networks, taking in pitches that he would then recommend to the brand(s) for which he feels they’d be the best suited. In doing so, Wachtel will work closely with the presidents and development teams at each network. He also will assume sole oversight of NBCU Cable Entertainment’s production entities — Universal Cable Prods for scripted series and Wilshire Studios for unscripted shows. Wachtel most recently co-ran UCP with Syfy’s Mark Stern. In his new role, Wachtel will work closely with Steve Dolcemaschio, who will become Chief Operating Officer of UCP and Wilshire Studios.
Chris McCumber, who had served as co-president of USA alongside Wachtel since 2011, has now been named sole president of the cable network, which has been No. 1 for the past seven years. He is a 12-year USA veteran, having joined in 2001 as SVP On-Air Promotion. “Over the past two and a half years as co-president, Chris has proven himself a fantastic leader with a deep understanding of the enormous strength and equity of the USA brand,” Hammer said. “He is perfectly positioned to shepherd USA into an exciting new chapter.”
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For over a decade, since Hammer brought Wachtel to USA as EVP in 2001, he has been one of her most trusted lieutenants. Wachtel established the USA brand and led the network’s transformation into the No. 1 cable net on the strength of original programming. Shortly after Hammer added Bravo, Oxygen, Style and several other networks to take over NBCU’s entire portfolio of entertainment cable nets in February, she brought in Wachtel informally to consult on scripts that she’d inherited at those networks — a precursor of the bigger plans Hammer had for the veteran executive. “Jeff’s development track record at USA is the envy of the TV business, so it makes sense to maximize his original programming expertise and business savvy by extending his purview across the entire portfolio,” Hammer said. “Jeff will work closely with the presidents and development teams at each network to create compelling content that not only embodies but enhances their brands.”