Sanders to head unit net disbanded two years ago

NBC has named its first dedicated current programming topper in more than two years.

Peacock programming vet Vernon Sanders has been tapped to head the unit as exec VP, as the Peacock firmly re-establishes the department.

When NBC disbanded its dedicated current programming team in December 2008, it merged the responsibility for oversight of ongoing series into the NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios programming teams. Execs devoted to current programming operated within the merged network/studio’s drama and comedy departments.

But in the coming season, NBC is launching no fewer than 12 series, and possibly a few more — and it likely made sense to once again carve out a dedicated team to the mission.

Sanders will now oversee all current scripted series for the network and studio, and report to NBCEntertainment/Universal Media Studios primetime prexy Angela Bromstad.

Sanders moves over from NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios’ drama team, where he had been senior VP. He developed the new skeins “Undercovers” and “Love Bites,” as well as “Parenthood.”

Sanders also spent several years in U’s comedy department. His resume also includes early stints at Wind Dancer Prods. and Paul Reiser’s Nuance Prods.

“Vernon is an incredibly talented programming executive in both comedy and drama, who has easily earned the respect of talent, writers and his colleagues,” Bromstad said. “There is no one more invested in the success of our new and existing shows than Vernon, who has played a key role in the development of so many of them.”

Often considered the unsung heroes of network programming, current program execs are usually the first to go when belts are tightened, but eventually webheads opt to bring back the execs that oversee the ongoing health and production of series already on the air.

ABC doesn’t have a current department, as drama and comedy execs continue to handle both development and current. Fox and CBS do field current teams, run by Marcy Ross and David Brownfield, respectively.

Meanwhile, the timing of the Sanders announcement is interesting: It comes just a day after he made waves at the House Judiciary Committee’s NBC U-Comcast merger hearings in Los Angeles.

Sanders attended the meeting and backed up NBC U diversity chief Paula Madison, who was asked about the extent of NBC’s outreach to minorities in the creative community. When Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) asked Sanders what the network’s new comedy “Friends With Benefits” was about, Sanders quipped, “It’s about what it sounds like” — to laughs in the room.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more