Wachtel had been chief content officer for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and head of Universal Cable Productions since 2013. With the move to London, he will oversee NBCU International’s portfolio of production companies and manage the development of formats and content partnerships for the Peacock. He will report to Kevin MacLellan, NBCUniversal’s chairman of global distribution and international.
“The ability to produce for a local and a global audience is key to the future success of any major production company,” MacLellan said. “Jeff is one of the few creative executives in the business who has proven time and again that he can deliver shows that work on both planes. Working with him closely over the years, my team and I have always found him to be incredibly collaborative and sensitive to what works best for our international audiences.”
Wachtel replaces Michael Edelstein as head of NBCUniversal’s international TV content strategy. Edelstein announced in October his plan to step down at year’s end after seven years in the post.
NBCUniversal International Studios is home to several busy production banners, including the U.K.’s Carnival Films (“Downton Abbey”), Working Title Television, Monkey Kingdom, and David Heyman’s Heyday TV.
Wachtel told Variety the opportunity to take the reins in London came as he was looking for his next challenge. His son Jesse is set to graduate from high school in the spring, which made it a good time for Wachtel and his wife, Sheryl, to take on a “grand adventure,” he said. (News of Wachtel’s new gig landed on Jesse’s 18th birthday, “which makes it the second most-important thing that happened today,” he quipped.)
Wachtel had been approached for a few other executive jobs and production venture opportunities but was happy to find a way to stay within the NBCUniversal/Comcast family.
“We have an unbelievable team (at NBCU Cable and UCP). It’s time to make way for the next generation,” Wachtel said. “This is a chance to do what I love to do. I’m going to a place that is already a thriving studio but can maybe use a little more strategic vision around it. I love coming into a new place and saying ‘How do we solve for this?’ “
Wachtel joined USA Network in 2001 and rose to co-president before shifting to the chief content officer post. Before that he had a long career as a film, TV and stage producer and studio executive.
A producer at heart, Wachtel said he is particularly excited about gaining more exposure to the global creative community and diving deeper into the formats business.
“There are so many cool things to do,” he said.