NBCU Packages USA, Syfy in New Entertainment Group

NBC Universal is placing its biggest cable networks USA and Syfy under one roof in a major restructuring move.

USA, Syfy, Chiller and Cloo will now reside under the new Entertainment Networks group, which will be headed by USA president Chris McCumber, who will become President, Entertainment Networks, according to NBCU.

Syfy president Dave Howe will be leaving the network to become president of strategy and commercial growth for NBCU while USA network executive vice president of original scripted programming Bill McGoldrick will become executive vice president of scripted content for the portfolio, including USA, Syfy, E! and Bravo, according to NBCU.

The move, spearheaded by NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Chairman Bonnie Hammer, is an extension of the company’s 2014 packaging of Bravo, E!, Esquire Network and Oxygen within the Lifestyle Networks group led by Frances Berwick, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. The new changes also add pre-schooler channel Sprout to the Lifestyle Networks mix.

Below is Hammer’s internal memo announcing the restructuring:

In this rapidly changing media environment, the biggest challenge is not only adapting to change, but staying one step ahead of it. That means continuing to re-think our playbook and developing a business model that’s as creative as it is effective, inventive as it is productive.

The disruption today is so constant and so fast-moving that it calls for a fresh approach that will transform the way we conduct our business. With that in mind, I’m writing to tell you about organizational changes that will help us to look beyond linear and uniquely position us for future success.

In a significant new role for Cable Entertainment, Dave Howe will become President, Strategy and Commercial Growth. It’s an important position whose time has come, reflecting the need for a consolidated approach to a complex media landscape. Throughout his tenure as President of Syfy, Dave has always had his eye on the big picture as he helped grow the network well beyond niche status. In his new role, he will partner with me on the kind of forward-thinking planning that will inform our future strategy. He will bridge creative and business, exploring opportunities across the portfolio, experimenting with new business models, platforms and technologies. He will focus on overall growth of the portfolio – both domestically and internationally – overseeing Business Development and Business Affairs. He will serve as the portfolio’s primary liaison with our ad sales, distribution and international partners and manage Symphony for our networks. He will also identify and manage business relationships with media partners such as BuzzFeed and Vox. Dave will divide his time between New York and LA.

A little over a year ago we formed the Lifestyle Networks group led by Frances Berwick, a re-structuring that more accurately represents how we take our networks to market. Using that same approach, we are now creating the Entertainment Networks group – consisting of USA, Syfy, Chiller and Cloo – headed by Chris McCumber, who will become President, Entertainment Networks. Chris has a proven track record for unlocking and maximizing the potential of a media brand. In his new role, he will be charged with streamlining processes that will maximize both creativity and efficiency at the networks. Among Chris’ direct reports are four executives who will assume responsibility for the Entertainment group in their respective areas: Alexandra Shapiro, EVP, Marketing; Rob Spodek, CFO; Katherine Nelson, SVP, Communications; and David Giles, SVP, Research, who was most recently at Viacom.

As we all know, strong content is at the heart of our business. Content we own or co-own is key to success and long-term profitability. Building upon the strategy that began with Jeff Wachtel being named President, Chief Content Officer and Head of Studios, we will now centralize all original scripted programming, allowing us to function nimbly and without redundancy. Bill McGoldrick will become EVP, Scripted Content for the portfolio, including USA, Syfy, E! and Bravo. Over the years at both USA and Syfy, Bill has demonstrated incredible savvy and a terrific instinct for the kind of original programming that generates not only buzz, but profitability. Bill will work closely with the network presidents and report to Jeff as he continues to bring his magic touch to scripted content across all our networks. Bill will also become a member of my leadership team.

The marketing of our original programming is also crucial to the success of our business. Our marketing teams need to be structured in a way that ensures we maintain our creative and competitive edge. So, in an effort to enhance production consistencies in marketing throughout the portfolio, Sandra Schron will become SVP, Marketing Production, Cable Entertainment. In this new role she will be charged with centralizing systems and practices, as well as streamlining operations for all marketing production across our networks. Sandra will report to the marketing heads in our Entertainment and Lifestyle groups.

Additionally, members of our marketing teams dedicated to supporting ad sales and who are currently embedded in our networks, will transition to Linda Yaccarino’s ad sales marketing team.

Finally, in a move that reflects the way it’s offered to the marketplace, Sprout will join Bravo, E!, Oxygen and Esquire Network under the Lifestyle Networks banner, reporting to Frances Berwick. Targeting moms and kids, Sprout is a natural demographic complement to these other Lifestyle networks.

Change is always challenging, but especially necessary in a time of disruption. I’m confident that this re-alignment…involving key executives who I truly believe are the best in the business…will enable us to more nimbly meet the challenges that confront us daily on just about every front.

As always, I’m grateful for your continued support. Please join me in congratulating everyone on their well-deserved new positions.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.