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Pearlena Igbokwe Named President of Universal Television

NBC’s drama development chief Pearlena Igbokwe has formally taken the reins of Universal Television as president.

Igbokwe succeeds Bela Bajaria, who exited the studio after five years earlier this week. She reports to Jennifer Salke, NBC Entertainment president.

“Pearlena’s remarkable track record in drama programming at NBC over the last few years made it clear that she was the ideal choice to lead the studio into its next phase of growth,” Salke said. She cited Igbokwe’s role in developing dramas that have helped NBC return to . “Her leadership, vision and taste have resulted in an impressive string of drama successes — from ‘The Blacklist,’ ‘Blindspot,’ ‘Chicago Med,’ ‘Shades of Blue’ and the upcoming series ‘This Is Us,’ ‘Timeless’ and ‘Taken’ — that coincides with our return to a top position among networks. Pearlena also comes to the job with a wealth of experience in television movies and comedy and we have no doubt she will lead our prolific studio forward in a dynamic way.”

Igbokwe’s appointment is expected to strengthen ties between NBC’s broadcast and studio operations. The executive has strong relationships with Salke and NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, with whom she worked at Showtime prior to joining NBC.

Although Universal TV has experienced a great deal of success selling to cable and digital platforms as well as to rival broadcasters, the studio has not been a reliable source of breakout hits for its sister network. NBC’s two biggest dramas — “The Blacklist” and “Blindspot” — both hail from outside studios. Of the three freshman drama series slated for fall on NBC, none originated at Universal TV.

No successor has yet been named to take Igbokwe’s drama-development role at the network.

Igbokwe spent 20 years at Showtime, helping to develop series such as “Dexter” and “Nurse Jackie.” She is well-regarded in television’s creative community, but, having joined NBC in 2012, she is fairly new to broadcast TV, where the volume of original programming running through the development pipeline is far greater than it is in premium cable.

Bajaria’s departure from the studio this week took many in the industry by surprise, despite Universal TV’s disappointing showing in the May upfronts, where it sold fewer new broadcast shows for the upcoming season than it did a year prior. Igbokwe was already in talks to take over the studio at the time that news of Bajaria’s exit broke.

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