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NBC Universal is dividing TV studio

The move separates production of cable and network shows.

March 25, 2008|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

NBC Universal, in a bid to retain a key executive, has split its television production studio into two separate operations.

Bonnie Hammer, who has been president of both NBC Universal's USA Network and Sci Fi Channel, on Monday was named president of cable entertainment and the cable studio. In her new position, Hammer will oversee making shows for cable channels.

The move significantly reduces the scope of Universal Media Studios, one of Hollywood's biggest suppliers of network and cable programming.

Universal Media Studios will now focus solely on supplying shows for broadcast networks, primarily NBC, such as "Law & Order," "The Office" and "30 Rock." Meanwhile, the newly formed NBC Universal Cable Studio will provide shows for cable channels, including "Monk," "Psych" and "Battlestar Galactica."

Hammer also will oversee NBC's new digital networks, including Sleuth, Chiller and Universal HD, which are available on some cable systems.

Executives close to the situation said NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker facilitated the reorganization to keep Hammer in the NBC Universal fold.

Zucker said in an interview last week that he planned to expand Hammer's duties, but declined to elaborate at that time.

"Look, obviously, she's done a terrific job overseeing USA and Sci Fi and we like to add on responsibilities to our strongest executives, and certainly Bonnie would qualify," he said.

For her part, Hammer said she wasn't looking to leave NBC Universal, even though she had been approached by others.

"It'd be very hard to leave and to create the kind of chemistry that's taken me many years to create," Hammer said. "And they're pretty good to me here."

Giving Hammer a higher profile underscores how the cable division has become the new star at NBC Universal, overshadowing the higher-profile broadcast network, which just a few years ago was ranked No. 1. Underscoring that shift, NBC last month said that instead of spending a day in New York touting its new fall shows to advertisers, as it has for decades, it would now use that time to showcase programming from all its channels.

The reorganization also reduces the responsibility of two powerful executives who, for the last nine months, have been running the NBC television network and production studio: co-Chairmen Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff.

Only last year, NBC combined its network and studio operations as a way to attract Silverman to the top programming job. Of 25 shows produced by Universal Media Studios, seven run on USA and Sci Fi.

Another executive affected is Katherine Pope, who as president of Universal Media Studios will now oversee a smaller roster of shows.

Hammer has been running USA since 2004 and the Sci Fi Channel since 2001. She spearheaded a deal to get professional wrestling on USA and worked to come up with a cohesive message to unify USA's disparate programming, including such shows as "Monk."

The result: a USA marketing campaign around the theme "Characters Welcome."

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meg.james@latimes.com

Times staff writer Matea Gold contributed to this report.

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