Longtime television executive Ted Harbert is leaving NBCUniversal. With his departure, several top executives — most notably NBC Sports chief Mark Lazarus — are seeing their roles within the company expand.
In a memo to staff Thursday announcing Harbert’s departure, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke also revealed that Lazarus has been named chairman, NBC Broadcasting and Sports. In addition, George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy will assume responsibility for NBC’s first-run syndication business. Jeff Bader, NBC Entertainment research and scheduling chief, will take oversight of the Broadcast Research Group, headed by Alan Wurtzel. Cheeks, Telegdy, and Bader are all part of NBC Entertainment, reporting to chairman Bob Greenblatt.
Wurtzel, an NBC veteran since 1999 and also head of standards and practices for the company, will now report to Bader for research and to Lazarus for standards and practices. He had previously reported to Harbert.
In addition, Kevin MacLellan has been named chairman, global distribution and international, adding domestic TV and new media to his purview. Maggie McLean Suniewick has been named president of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises.
Harbert was named chairman of NBC Broadcasting in 2011, moving to NBCUniversal from Comcast when the latter purchased the former. Reporting to Burke, he was given oversight of NBC’s late night programming in 2013 as the network handed over “The Tonight Show” to New York-based host Jimmy Fallon. But late night was soon after moved to Telegdy’s portfolio. When Telegdy was named president of alternative and reality group in June, oversight of late night moved fully to Cheeks, who was promoted to to president of late-night programming and business operations.
“When I joined NBC in February 2011 there was room for significant improvement,” Harbert wrote Thursday in his own letter to staff. “Five years later, thanks to the incredible work of all of our great teams, we are reporting record results. Simply put, my work is here done.”
Prior to the NBCUniversal acquisition, Harbert had been president and CEO of Comcast Entertainment Group, overseeing E!, Style Network, and G4. He had previously served as president of NBC Studios and spent 20 years at ABC, where he was chairman of ABC Entertainment.
Coming off a Rio Summer Olympics that yielded lower-than-anticipated ratings but significant profit, Lazarus will see his purview at NBCUniversal expand for the first time beyond sports. Lazarus joined the company in 2011 as sports chairman, overseeing the successful broadcasts of the Rio, Sochi, and London Olympics and a five-year run by “Sunday Night Football” as the highest rated television show in primetime — a streak that is expected to continue with the 2015-16 season.
Lazarus previously served as president of Turner Entertainment Group, overseeing Turner Sports, TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, truTV, Turner Animation, Cartoon Network, Cartoon Network Studios, Adult Swim, and Boomerang.
MacLellan was named chairman of NBCUniversal’s international operations in 2013. Suniewick had headed Comcast and NBCUniversal’s Symphony initiative. A new top executive for that program will be named at a later date. MacLellan’s new role will see her focus on building new digital businesses within NBCUniversal. Executives Ron Lamprecht, Lori Conkling, and Evan Shapiro will join her in the venture.
Read the full messages from Burke and Harbert below:
I am writing to announce some important changes to our leadership team.
Ted Harbert, Chairman of NBC Broadcasting, has decided to leave the company. The businesses Ted oversees are firing on all cylinders and he is ready to look for his next challenge outside of NBCUniversal. Ted has had a great 40-year career in television and has played a significant role at Comcast and NBCUniversal since he joined E! in 2004. Ted’s encyclopedic knowledge of the television business, creative instincts and enthusiasm have had a positive impact on so many of us. He has been an important adviser to me and a great colleague and mentor to many of you. I know Ted’s heart will always remain in the television business, and I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next.
Mark Lazarus will expand his duties and become Chairman, NBC Broadcasting and Sports. Mark will continue to lead the NBC Sports Group while adding oversight of the NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations (run by Valari Staab), NBC Affiliate Relations, (headed by Jean Dietze), NBC Affiliate Marketing (headed by Scot Chastain), NBC Network Operations (managed by Tina Silvestri) and Broadcast Standards (run by Alan Wurtzel). Mark has had a major impact on NBC Sports and NBCUniversal since joining the company in 2011. Mark and his team have a winning culture and the quality of NBC Sports’ coverage is unsurpassed, from the Olympics and Sunday Night Football to the Premier League, Golf, NHL and NASCAR. Mark’s energy, intelligence and character will be great assets to NBC Broadcasting, as they have been at NBC Sports.
George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy of NBC Entertainment will assume responsibility for NBC’s first-run syndication business (led by Valerie Schaer and Ed Swindler). Jeff Bader will be responsible for the Broadcast Research group (run by Alan Wurtzel). These are the perfect homes for these areas and George, Paul and Jeff are the ideal people to run them.
Kevin MacLellan will become Chairman, Global Distribution and International, adding oversight of Domestic Television and New Media Distribution (led by Frances Manfredi) to his current role leading our international businesses. Kevin will now be responsible for television sales on a global basis, reflecting how the marketplace has evolved. Kevin and his team have done a great job, and this expansion of his responsibilities is well-deserved. He is an excellent leader, understands the global television business and brings a strategic mindset and strong deal-making abilities to this new role.
Maggie McLean Suniewick will become President, NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises. In this newly-created role, Maggie will head a division dedicated to building new digital businesses. Maggie and her team will lead the company’s digital business strategy, forge partnerships with new media and technology companies and head our efforts to deliver premium content to emerging platforms. Since Maggie joined Comcast in 2006 she has excelled in a variety of roles with the company, on both the cable and content sides of the business, most recently running Symphony. Maggie’s creativity, drive and ability to get things done will have a great impact on NBCUniversal’s future. Ron Lamprecht, Lori Conkling and Evan Shapiro will join Maggie’s team, and we will soon appoint a successor for our Symphony efforts.
We are fortunate to have so many capable executives to take on additional responsibilities. Please join me as we wish Ted all the best and congratulate our colleagues who are taking on new roles.
Wanted you to hear this directly from me before it’s released to the press in a few minutes:
This Sunday marks the end of my 40th season in television. I think that’s plenty for now, so I’ve decided to leave NBC as of October 14th. I’m staying an extra month to ensure orderly transitions and continue the launch of our terrific new Harry Connick, Jr. syndicated show.
When I joined NBC in February 2011 there was room for significant improvement. Five years later, thanks to the incredible work of all of our great teams, we are reporting record results. Simply put, my work is here done.
The proverbial next chapter lies ahead and I’m happy to say I have no idea what it is. I’ve never known the unknown and I’ve never taken more than two and a half weeks off since I was 16 years old…now I will. Let’s hope I make it until January.
I’ve loved working at 30 Rock and with all the great people here. I’m eternally grateful to Steve Burke for the opportunity to work for the last 12 years, first at Comcast’s Entertainment networks and then here at NBC. It’s been a truly incredible adventure.
Thank you all so much.