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Universal Pictures has tapped Jessica Schell as its exec VP of business development and strategic planning at the studio.

Schell replaces Michael Joe, who ankled the post in May to join Relativity Media after spending 15 years at U. Schell started the job early this month.

The role is becoming increasingly important at the studio, especially as new digital platforms alter the way films are distributed.

In addition to overseeing strategic planning and new business initiatives, Schell works with all of NBC U’s business units to develop the studio’s windowing strategy. In the past, the job has also covered how U embraces digital cinema, videogames and mobile platforms and how it handles its anti-piracy efforts.

Schell reports to Universal vice chairman/chief operating officer Rick Finkelstein, who called her an “accomplished executive with a keen understanding of our business challenges and opportunities.”

“With so many exciting changes in our business, we need the kind of expertise that Jessica has to offer,” Finkelstein said.

Schell was most recently senior VP of digital media strategy and business development for NBC U, where she increased the company’s data-targeted advertising capabilities, forged social media partnerships and helped broker the acquisitions of iVillage, Television Without Pity and LXTV. She also was part of the team that assembled the financing from Providence Equity Partners for the launch of Hulu, a joint venture with News Corp.

She also serves on the board of the Peacock Equity Fund, a $250 million strategic investment vehicle launched by NBC U and GE Commercial Finance in 2007.

Before joining NBCU, Schell was a VP at Allen & Co., in the areas of corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions and principal investing, and served as a senior analyst of corporate strategic planning for Disney.