Pope to rule NBC Universal TV
Ben Silverman is putting his Peacock programming team in place.
NBC’s new entertainment co-chair has tapped Katherine Pope to serve as day-to-day head of NBC Universal Television Studio, replacing the exiting Angela Bromstad.
On the network side, Teri Weinberg — who has run scripted programming at Silverman’s Reveille banner — is said to be in line to take over most of Pope’s old duties heading up development. Terms of her deal are still being hammered out, but could be in place later this week.
Separately, NBC U TV Studio comedy chief Shelley McCrory confirmed over the weekend she is ankling her post, ending a 15-year career at the company. Her departure had been in the works for months, well before Silverman came into the picture.
As for Pope, the well-regarded exec widely credited with playing a key role in the development of Peacock hit “Heroes” has been the frontrunner for the studio gig since last Tuesday. That’s when NBC U TV Studio co-chair Marc Graboff — and NBC U prexy-CEO Jeff Zucker — made it clear they wanted Pope to remain with the company.
Silverman then came onboard with the idea after a series of getting-to-know-you phone calls and a two-hour meeting with Pope at NBC’s Burbank HQ last week.
“I’ve always admired the work of Katherine Pope,” Silverman said. “She is an unbelievable executive.”
Graboff added that he was “looking forward to (Pope) continuing to grow our very successful studio.”
Pope had been in her network gig since January 2006, having previously headed drama development at the Peacock studio.
While all’s well now, Pope’s future at the conglom had been in doubt in the days leading up to the Memorial Day weekend after she and Zucker clashed; Zucker apparently had reneged on promises to put Pope in charge of all studio development.
In fact, Zucker was negotiating to bring Silverman into the company, with him and Graboff taking oversight of both the studio and the network. Once Graboff and Zucker signaled that Pope was back in their good graces, it became apparent she would take control of the studio (assuming Silverman didn’t have any objections).
“Jeff Zucker and I have worked together a long time and we have a great relationship. Most of the time we agree, and there are times we don’t agree,” Pope said of her dust-up with Zucker, noting she was uncomfortable that reports of their disagreement leaked out.
“There will probably be many more times we have spirited conversations. But I never want to be a part of the story.”
Pope — who’s been at NBC in either a studio or network gig since 2000 — said Silverman had “bowled me over” in their few meetings.
“It’s not just his enthusiasm, which we all know about, but his absolute specificity in vision, his decisiveness and his ability to give clarity on what he wants.”
In some ways, Pope’s title won’t change much. According to multiple sources, the exec has had a key role in the studio side of development for months now, as Bromstad prepared for a long-expected departure. Pope’s stepped-up role — and Bromstad’s reduced activity level — was in part a reflection of the ever-present tension between Bromstad and the now-departed Kevin Reilly.
Bromstad is expected to take a new gig heading an international unit for NBC U, relocating to London (Daily Variety, May 29). Despite the rocky relationship between Bromstad and Reilly, the collaboration produced successful skeins such as “Heroes” and “The Office.”
Pope said the Peacock studio will continue to focus on producing for the NBC network, with projects for outside nets coming second.
“My goal is to have hits on the NBC television network,” Pope said. “Not just because I work for the company, but because NBC has a ton of needs. It wouldn’t be smart to not try to service those needs.”
That said, Pope added, “If a talent (or studio exec) is incredibly passionate about a show that’s not right for NBC, I want to set it up elsewhere.”
With McCrory exiting as head of comedy for the studio, Pope already has at least one position to fill. NBC comedy chief Jeff Ingold followed Pope from the studio to the network a couple years back, but he also has a relationship with Silverman through their work on “The Office.”
Pope said she hoped to move quickly to set her exec team, but noted that there “are a lot of moving parts” at both the network and studio.
That includes Weinberg, who’s been key in day-to-day production and development of Reveille’s “The Office,” “The Tudors” and “Ugly Betty.” If she does take a position at NBC, Silverman will have to find someone to take over her role as a watchdog for Reveille’s interests in those three shows.
Weinberg has kept a low profile at Reveille, though Silverman has been careful to share the spotlight with her, often praising Weinberg’s role in helping shape his scripted business.
As for McCrory, who’s been senior VP of comedy series for the studio since 2004, she will leave sometime this week when her contract expires.
Despite the timing of her exit, McCrory said she actually told NBC U supremo Jeff Zucker and NBC U TV Studio co-chair Marc Graboff of her intentions to leave back in February.
“I’ve grown up and then some at NBC,” McCrory said. “I’ve worked on extraordinary shows with the best talent in the business. I couldn’t have asked for more.
“But I thought I should shake it up and have a new adventure before I turn 30,” she joked.McCrory leaves a solid track record behind. Since taking over the top comedy job at the studio three years ago, she oversaw production on the successful Thursday laffer “The Office” and helped develop “30 Rock,” the most critically hailed frosh comedy of last season.
She also had a hand in NBC midseason laffer “The IT Crowd” and “Aliens in America,” the new CW laffer that was developed by NBC U but is now being produced elsewhere.
Before moving into comedy, McCrory spent four years at the studio as senior VP of primetime series, where she helped develop shows such as “Crossing Jordan.” She had previously headed comedy development for the NBC network, where she helped birth Judd Apatow’s “Freaks and Geeks.”
McCrory joined NBC in 1992 as an assistant to Reilly, who at the time worked as VP of drama development at NBC. She rose to VP of primetime series, overseeing production on skeins such as “Friends” and “Providence.”