NBCUniversal has reached within its ranks to find a replacement for outgoing NBCUniversal International Studios president Michael Edelstein.
NBCUniversal cable veteran Jeff Wachtel, most recently Chief Content Officer, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and President, Universal Cable Productions & Wilshire Studios, has been named new NBCUniversal International Studios president, effective January.
In his new position managing all aspects of television development, production, formats, and strategic content partnerships for NBCU International Studios, Wachtel will remain based in Los Angeles until summer 2018 when he will move to London.
Edelstein announced his exit earlier this fall after more than seven years in the job, which requires extensive traveling, agreeing to stay on until end of 2017 for a smooth transition.
Wachtel, previously President of Original Programming and Co-President of USA Network, was named Chief Content Officer, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment in 2013, reporting to Bonnie Hammer, Chairman, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios. He oversaw the development and production of content for NBCU’s entertainment cable networks, Bravo, E!, Oxygen, SYFY and USA, serving as president of Universal Cable Productions (focused on original scripted programming) and Wilshire Studios (focused on non-scripted).
When Wachtel was named to the job, he served as a point of entry for incoming projects, channeling them to the most suitable NBCU network. NBCU’s executive structure has changed over the past four years. Bill McGoldrick became head of scripted programming for USA, Syfy, Bravo and E!, coordinating scripted development for all brands. Meanwhile, Dawn Olmstead, EVP Development UCP and Wilshire Studios, whom Wachtel hired initially to oversee scripted development for UCP, has excelled, adding unscripted development to her purview in her most recent contract renewal. With Olmstead and McGoldrick, there may not be a need for replacement for Wachtel.
“The ability to produce for a local and a global audience is key to the future success of any major production company,” said Kevin MacLellan, Chairman, Global Distribution & International, to whom Wachtel will report. “Jeff is one of the few creative executives in the business who has proven time and again that he can deliver shows that work on both planes. Working with him closely over the years, my team and I have always found him to be incredibly collaborative and sensitive to what works best for our international audiences.”
At NBCU International Studios, Wachtel is inheriting a solid foundation built by Edelstein. The company includes NBC Universal International Prods., headed by JoAnn Alfano, Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films, Monkey Kingdom, which produces BAFTA award-winning Made in Chelsea; Chocolate Media, a factual/entertainment label; comedy-focused Lucky Giant Productions (HBO/BBC’s Family Tree); Australian production company Matchbox Pictures (Real Housewives of Melbourne, The Slap), Canadian company Lark Productions (Real Housewives of Vancouver), as well as joint ventures Heyday Television, with David Heyman, and Working Title Television, with Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Additionally, the division handles NBC formats, setting up local versions of such series as Saturday Night Live and World Of Dance. Wachtel will work closely with NBCU International Studios Chief Operating Officer Sarah Cooper.
“I’m going from one dream job to another,” said Wachtel, who first joined USA Network as EVP in 2001. “Nothing can top my experience helping to grow USA and then UCP into hugely successful enterprises. The only thing that could be more exciting is the adventure of moving to London and working with our great international folks to help take that business to the next level.”
At USA, Wachtel established the USA brand and led the network’s transformation into the No. 1 cable net on the strength of original programming. Some of the series produced by UCP under him include Mr. Robot, Suits and The Sinner for USA, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce for Bravo, The Magicians and 12 Monkeys at Syfy, and Difficult People for Hulu.