After bringing Bravo, E!, Esquire Network and Oxygen together in the Lifestyle Networks group led by Frances Berwick, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer is making a similar move with the rest of her portfolio. USA, Syfy, Chiller and Cloo are being consolidated into Entertainment Networks group headed by USA president Chris McCumber, who will become President, Entertainment Networks.
Syfy president David Howe will be leaving his post to become President, Strategy and Commercial Growth. In his new role, he will work with Hammer on exploring opportunities across the portfolio, and experimenting with new business models, platforms and technologies. He will focus on overall growth of the portfolio – both domestically and internationally – overseeing Business Development and Business Affairs.
As part of the restructuring, all original scripted programming for NBCUni Cable Entertainment will be centralized and run by Syfy’s Bill McGoldrick who will become EVP, Scripted Content for the portfolio, including USA, Syfy, E! and Bravo. USA’s EVP scripted programming Jackie de Crinis will report to him.
NBCUni Cable Entertainment already consolidated scripted development on the production side under Jeff Wachtel, President, Chief Content Officer and Head of Studios. McGoldrick will report to Wachtel.
McCumber’s direct reports will include three executives from the various divisions and one new addition who will now assume responsibility for the Entertainment group in their respective areas: Alexandra Shapiro, EVP, Marketing; Rob Spodek, CFO; Katherine Nelson, SVP, Communications; and David Giles, SVP, Research, who was most recently at Viacom.
In an interview with Deadline, Hammer said that she and her team took some time before consolidating the entertainment networks after doing the same with the lifestyle-themed nets.
“We needed to test out the model and see whether you can really manage a variety of channels in a cohesive way or it will be mayhem,” she said. Hammer called the creation of the Lifestyle Network group “a tremendous success,” noting the “great turnaround” at E!, proving that the model was “the right way to do things.”
There was another reason to delay the consolidation. “We wanted to take a beat to see where the world is going,” Hammer said. “We saw that linear would still be important but not the only game in town and that content would be the focal point in the future. No matter what happens, what platforms emerge, smart content wins.”
That was the reason behind the decision to bring all scripted development of the division under one roof, overseen by McGoldrick, who has experience running scripted for both USA and Syfy.
The consolidation further made sense as USA moved away from its original blue-sky, frothy brand of scripted programming to edgier fare, illustrated by breakout hit and Golden Globe winner, Mr. Robot. Because of the shift, now a drama project could practically go on either network, USA or Syfy, Hammer said.
It is still in the early days of the reorganization, but Hammer envisions possibly dividing up scripted development by genre vs. network brand as had been the case. “Once a project comes into the door, it will be determined where it lands.”
As for possible eliminations of positions if there are redundancies in the consolidation, Hammer stressed that that has not been on the agenda for making the change. “The goal is to make the structure more nimble and to make decisions faster,” she said.
In his new role, Howe will “balance the creative and the business,” Hammer said, pointing to Howe breaking new ground at Syfy with Defiance, which launched simultaneously as a video game and scripted TV series. “That has been his love and passion — finding new ways to do business,” Hammer said, adding that he will be tasked with “making sure all of the content is monetized to the fullest.”
Here is Hammer’s internal memo:
In this rapidly changing media environment, the biggest challenge is not only adapting to change, but staying one step ahead of it. That means continuing to re-think our playbook and developing a business model that’s as creative as it is effective, inventive as it is productive.
The disruption today is so constant and so fast-moving that it calls for a fresh approach that will transform the way we conduct our business. With that in mind, I’m writing to tell you about organizational changes that will help us to look beyond linear and uniquely position us for future success.
In a significant new role for Cable Entertainment, Dave Howe will become President, Strategy and Commercial Growth. It’s an important position whose time has come, reflecting the need for a consolidated approach to a complex media landscape. Throughout his tenure as President of Syfy, Dave has always had his eye on the big picture as he helped grow the network well beyond niche status. In his new role, he will partner with me on the kind of forward-thinking planning that will inform our future strategy. He will bridge creative and business, exploring opportunities across the portfolio, experimenting with new business models, platforms and technologies. He will focus on overall growth of the portfolio – both domestically and internationally – overseeing Business Development and Business Affairs. He will serve as the portfolio’s primary liaison with our ad sales, distribution and international partners and manage Symphony for our networks. He will also identify and manage business relationships with media partners such as BuzzFeed and Vox. Dave will divide his time between New York and LA.
A little over a year ago we formed the Lifestyle Networks group led by Frances Berwick, a re-structuring that more accurately represents how we take our networks to market. Using that same approach, we are now creating the Entertainment Networks group – consisting of USA, Syfy, Chiller and Cloo – headed by Chris McCumber, who will become President, Entertainment Networks. Chris has a proven track record for unlocking and maximizing the potential of a media brand. In his new role, he will be charged with streamlining processes that will maximize both creativity and efficiency at the networks. Among Chris’ direct reports are four executives who will assume responsibility for the Entertainment group in their respective areas: Alexandra Shapiro, EVP, Marketing; Rob Spodek, CFO; Katherine Nelson, SVP, Communications; and David Giles, SVP, Research, who was most recently at Viacom.
As we all know, strong content is at the heart of our business. Content we own or co-own is key to success and long-term profitability. Building upon the strategy that began with Jeff Wachtel being named President, Chief Content Officer and Head of Studios, we will now centralize all original scripted programming, allowing us to function nimbly and without redundancy. Bill McGoldrick will become EVP, Scripted Content for the portfolio, including USA, Syfy, E! and Bravo. Over the years at both USA and Syfy, Bill has demonstrated incredible savvy and a terrific instinct for the kind of original programming that generates not only buzz, but profitability. Bill will work closely with the network presidents and report to Jeff as he continues to bring his magic touch to scripted content across all our networks. Bill will also become a member of my leadership team.
The marketing of our original programming is also crucial to the success of our business. Our marketing teams need to be structured in a way that ensures we maintain our creative and competitive edge. So, in an effort to enhance production consistencies in marketing throughout the portfolio, Sandra Schron will become SVP, Marketing Production, Cable Entertainment. In this new role she will be charged with centralizing systems and practices, as well as streamlining operations for all marketing production across our networks. Sandra will report to the marketing heads in our Entertainment and Lifestyle groups.
Additionally, members of our marketing teams dedicated to supporting ad sales and who are currently embedded in our networks, will transition to Linda Yaccarino’s ad sales marketing team.
Finally, in a move that reflects the way it’s offered to the marketplace, Sprout will join Bravo, E!, Oxygen and Esquire Network under the Lifestyle Networks banner, reporting to Frances Berwick. Targeting moms and kids, Sprout is a natural demographic complement to these other Lifestyle networks.
Change is always challenging, but especially necessary in a time of disruption. I’m confident that this re-alignment…involving key executives who I truly believe are the best in the business…will enable us to more nimbly meet the challenges that confront us daily on just about every front.
As always, I’m grateful for your continued support. Please join me in congratulating everyone on their well-deserved new positions.