Chris McCumber, President, Entertainment Networks — USA Network & Syfy, is leaving NBCUniversal after 19 years at the company’s flagship entertainment cable networks. He just notified his team in an internal memo (you can read it below).
The move follows the recent major realignment of NBCU’s streaming and leaner TV group, which introduced a new centralized structure under Mark Lazarus, Chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. It includes Lifestyle Networks president Frances Berwick taking oversight over the newly established Entertainment Business unit.
I hear NBCU leadership looked to find a new role for McCumber, who is well liked internally and in the creative community, but ultimately, he felt it was time to leave.
NBCU’s restructuring reflects the shift from linear TV to streaming at all of the major media congloms. Additionally, ad-supported basic cable networks increasingly rely on unscripted fare and live sports as they scale back their original scripted footprint, which had been at the core of USA and Syfy’s programming strategies for the past two decades.
McCumber joined USA in 2001 and has led the network since 2011. He was named President, Entertainment Networks – USA Network & Syfy in 2016. Under his leadership, USA has been the No. 1 entertainment cable network for 14 years – the longest streak in TV history. He oversaw some of the most profitable years in both USA and Syfy’s history even after linear ratings began to decline.
He developed, greenlighted and launched such hit series as USA’s Monk, Psych, Suits, Mr. Robot, Chrisly Knows Best and The Sinner. He also spearheaded negotiations for some of the biggest NBCU cable programming deals, including licensing WWE Raw, WWE SmackDown!, Harry Potter Wizarding World and Modern Family. At USA, he was the point person overseeing the network’s long, successful partnership with WWE.
Additionally, McCumber developed USA’s signature brand campaign “Characters Welcome” and rebranded Syfy in 2017. He also evolved Syfy into a multi-platform brand, adding adult animation, live pop-culture coverage, podcasts and talk and opinion via Syfy Wire, leading to the network posting its most profitable year ever in 2019.
McCumber joined USA in 2001 as SVP On-Air Promotion. He was named Head of Marketing for USA in 2004. McCumber served as USA Network Co-President alongside Jeff Wachtel from 2011-13 before becoming sole president of the cable network. Here is his note to staff:
Friends and Colleagues –
I’ve always promised to be open and transparent – and it is in that spirit that I wanted you to be the first to hear that I have decided to leave NBCUniversal, following a period of transition.
After nearly 20 years at this tremendous company, this has not been an easy decision. Yet I believe wholeheartedly that NBCUniversal is taking the right steps by creating a new organization built for the future.
It’s difficult to encapsulate two decades into one note. Together as a team, we helped make USA Network the #1 cable entertainment network for a record 14 years, rebooted SYFY with a fan-first perspective, won a slew of awards, and created some of television’s most popular programs of all time. But beyond all the successes and accolades, what I’ll remember most is the special bond that we had as a team. A bond built on trust, mutual respect, and of course, having a lot of fun making great content.
I know that change is not always easy, but I believe that periods of disruption always open new doors. I encourage you all to seize every opportunity that comes your way. You’ve got a front row seat to the evolution of the television business… what a gift!
I’m forever grateful and proud to have had the privilege of working alongside each and every one of you, and to call you my teammates and friends.
Thank you for the honor –