NBC’s Exec Shuffle Is Only the Latest Shift as Legacy Companies Turn to Streaming

In a surprise move early Oct. 7, NBC­Universal outlined a major executive shuffle from on high, just nine short months after a separate shake-up of top brass at the broadcast and cable giant. But in a fast-moving landscape marked by corporate consolidation and the rapid bloom of streaming platforms, that may be the new normal.

“You’re seeing every media company struggling with organization structure,” says analyst Craig Moffett, co-founder of boutique media and telecom research firm MoffettNathanson. “It seems pretty clear, going forward, that there’s going to be more strategic integration across media assets as you move to a single face to the customer.”

AT&T’s WarnerMedia and a combined Disney-Fox have implemented their own senior management shake-ups in the months after their respective mergers. CBS-Viacom may yet engage in further exec Tetris as it configures a newly combined hierarchy.

As a result of NBCU’s rearrangement, first reported by Variety, veteran TV exec Bonnie Hammer now oversees a combined Universal Television and Universal Content Prods. as chairman of NBCUniversal Content Studios, after being tasked at the start of the year with steering forthcoming streaming platform Peacock as chairman of direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises.

And Paul Telegdy, after splitting the NBC Entertainment chairman role with George Cheeks over the past year, will now take the helm solo as Cheeks moves to a vice chair role under Hammer.

The most notable shift prompting industry curiosity: NBCUniversal parent company Comcast has parachuted in exec Matt Strauss to essentially take Hammer’s place as the new chairman of Peacock, giving him additional oversight of digital enterprises. The newest member of the NBCU family most recently served as executive vice president of Comcast’s Xfinity services, heading strategy and development for pay-TV distributor Xfinity TV as well as its internet, home and voice products and services.

To some degree, the shift makes sense.

Prior to her role at the head of Peacock, Hammer had a long tenure as chairman of the company’s cable entertainment division, overseeing USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen, E! and Universal Kids on the network side, as well as UCP and Wilshire Studios on the studio side. The Oct. 7 move puts her in the content-production driver’s seat, with all broadcast and cable scripted studio operations under her purview. Recently anointed Peacock programming head Bill McGoldrick, a longtime Hammer deputy, will continue to work with her to steer content for the streaming service.

And now that Hammer has primed the pump for Peacock, shaping its programming philosophy, Strauss can use his Xfinity experience to take the over-the-top product across the finish line in April 2020.

“The team at Peacock has done a fantastic job building a solid foundation for a competitive direct-to-consumer offering,” Strauss tells Variety. “With great content, a strong brand and the best team in the industry, we’re well positioned for success. I can’t wait to get started.”

But Strauss represents a different breed of exec from Hammer — one whose background is product-oriented, not content-oriented. Handing a critical component of NBCUniversal’s future to such an exec, one who is unknown to Hollywood, speaks to Comcast’s priorities heading into the Peacock launch. When it bows next year, Peacock will enter a highly competitive market that will include Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus, as well as fellow spring entrants Quibi and HBO Max.

In the old world order, major media companies maintained silos to preserve culture and independence, says Moffett. But reorganization seems inevitable as these multipronged entities centralize their operations.

That Comcast executives hadn’t previously been shoehorned into its entertainment subsidiary, which it acquired less than a decade ago, “speaks to the kind of respectfulness they have at the organization [toward] NBCU,” Moffett says. “They don’t want to do anything that feels like trampling in the rose garden.”

“Comcast has generally struck a pretty good balance of keeping what’s special about NBCU,” he adds, noting that the risk of moving the pieces around too quickly is that corporate talent could start walking out the door. Conversely, moving too slowly means that media companies risk missing their marks in an evolving entertainment market.

As NBCU entertainment chief Telegdy tells Variety: “NBC’s iconic brand will remain a beacon of positivity, relevance and inclusion for millions of people across the country every night. As the primary content and creativity engine, NBC is now poised to collaborate with Peacock and the newly created NBCUniversal Content Studios to migrate audiences throughout our content ecosystem.”

More Biz

  • Rose McGowan

    Rose McGowan Files Racketeering Suit Against Harvey Weinstein, David Boies, Lisa Bloom

    Rose McGowan filed a racketeering lawsuit on Wednesday against Harvey Weinstein, as well as against his ex-attorneys Lisa Bloom and David Boies and the spy firm Black Cube. The lawsuit alleges that Weinstein conspired with his attorneys to suppress and discredit her allegation that Weinstein raped her at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997. “This [...]

  • hulu-logo

    Hulu Appoints Netflix's Spencer Peeples as Vice President of Film and Awards Marketing

    Hulu has appointed Spencer Peeples, who currently works as director of awards at Netflix, as its vice president of film and awards marketing, marking the first time the Disney-owned streamer has hired a senior exec dedicated to awards. In his new high-profile role, Peeples will lead the strategy and execution of Hulu’s awards campaigns, as [...]

  • UTA headshot

    UTA Taps Ashley Momtaheni as Director of Corporate Communications

    Ashley Momtaheni is jumping ship from Annapurna Pictures to UTA. The agency has tapped Momtaheni as its new director of corporate communications, reporting to its global chief communications officer, Seth Oster. In her new role, Momtaheni will focus primarily on external communications, rounding out UTA’s senior communications team with veteran UTA comms executive Lisa Stein [...]

  • Euphoria HBO

    'It's an Explosion': Inside the Rising Costs of Making a Scripted TV Series

    When Apple TV plus launches on Nov. 1, it will do so with what’s arguably the most expensive new-series lineup in TV history. Among the streamer’s initial offerings are the drama “The Morning Show,” bearing a price tag believed to be more than $15 million an episode, and the dystopian sci-fi series “See,” which is [...]


    Wall Street Trims ViacomCBS Forecasts After Post-Deal Financial Disclosure

    Top media analysts have cut their short-term growth prospects for ViacomCBS following last week’s financial disclosures that came as part of the closing of CBS Corp.’s stock-swap takeover deal for Viacom. In the Oct. 17 filing, CBS Corp. released specific year-to-year projections for its free cash flow yield, guidance that the company has not offered [...]

  • Alexander Vlahos (Monsieur/Philippe d'Orléans), George Blagden

    Merged Banijay-Endemol Shine Would Be Global Powerhouse in a Content-Hungry World

    If France’s Banijay Group clinches its proposed purchase of Endemol Shine, which could happen within the next few days, the deal would mark peak M&A in the international indie content world. The MO of both companies is acquiring and aggregating brands and IP, and their union would be the largest ever of its kind on [...]

  • Katie Couric Sheryl Sandberg

    Katie Couric Steamrolls Sheryl Sandberg in Roving Vanity Fair Summit Interview

    Sending a jolt through a luxurious and excessively polite afternoon in Beverly Hills, veteran journalist Katie Couric delivered a relentless series of hardball questions to Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg on Tuesday. Speaking in conversation at the sixth annual Vanity Fair New Establishment summit at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Couric’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content