Jeff Wachtel Promoted in NBCU Bid Against ‘Complacency’

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Chris McCumber will be sole USA president; Frances Berwick takes on oversight of Oxygen

NBCU has promoted USA Network co-president Jeff Wachtel to the new position of president and chief content officer of NBCU Cable, in what NBCU Cable Entertainment Chairman Bonnie Hammer described as an attempt to avoid “complacency.”

USA Network co-president Chris McCumber will now be the sole president. has been named President, USA Network. And Bravo chief Frances Berwick will take on oversight of Oxygen in addition to her current responsibilities.

Saying she wanted to avoid “complacency,” Hammer said in a memo to employees that “just because something is working today doesn’t mean it will work forever.” (She is pictured with Wachtel, left, and McCumber.)

Hammer announced the moves at the same time she announced that the Style Network will be rebranded as the Esquire Network. G4 was to have turned into Esquire, but Hammer explained that Style “presents brand overlap” in a portfolio of female-centric networks including Bravo, E! and Oxygen.

Hammer said Salaam Coleman-Smith, who led Style, will “play an integral role in the transition and at NBCUniversal in the future.”

Here is Hammer’s full memo:

Hello Team —

I’m writing today with significant news about our business.

In the months since we formed NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, my #1 priority has been to identify opportunities to make our business the strongest possible force in an increasingly crowded media landscape.  The great news is that we’re able to do it from a position of strength… by any measure, our group is consistently a top performer in the industry.

But with success comes a constant risk: complacency.   Just because something is working today doesn’t mean it will work forever. The biggest challenge to thriving in the marketplace is identifying the strategic moves that will keep us ahead of the competition.

With that in mind, I want to share with you some key organizational changes, which are effective immediately.

Jeff Wachtel will assume the newly created position of President and Chief Content Officer, NBCU Cable Entertainment.  Jeff’s development track record at USA is the envy of the TV business, so it makes sense to maximize his original programming expertise and business savvy by extending his purview across the entire portfolio.  Jeff will work closely with the presidents and development teams at each network to create compelling content that not only embodies but enhances their brands.  He will also assume oversight of both Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios, working closely with Steve Dolcemaschio, who will become Chief Operating Officer of UCP and Wilshire Studios.

Chris McCumber has been named President, USA Network.  Over the past two and a half years as co-president, Chris has proven himself a fantastic leader with a deep understanding of the enormous strength and equity of the USA brand.  He has played a critical role in establishing USA as an industry powerhouse headed for its eighth record-breaking year as the #1 network in cable.  He is perfectly positioned to shepherd USA into an exciting new chapter.

Frances Berwick will take on oversight of Oxygen in addition to her current responsibilities.  Frances has been responsible for generating the aspirational programming that’s made Bravo one of the most buzzed about brands in the business.  She’ll not only bring to Oxygen her impeccable brand savvy, but also identify key synergies to bring the same must-see passion to an all-new audience.

I am incredibly thankful for the contributions Jeff, Chris and Frances have made and I look forward to sharing in their future success.  They will continue to report to me in their new roles.

Beyond these changes, I want to address an additional restructuring.

One of the hallmarks of our success is brand clarity.   Our goal has always been delivery of compelling content by means of distinct, complementary brands, each in its clearly defined lane.  With Bravo, E! and Oxygen, we offer unique takes on popular culture for an ever-broadening audience, including the all-important female demo.   In pursuit of that same demo, Style presents brand overlap within our portfolio.

Esquire Network, on the other hand, offers an opportunity to introduce a lifestyle network that speaks to an upscale male audience underserved in the current marketplace. So, in an effort to establish the most diversified portfolio, the decision has been made to rebrand Style as the Esquire Network, which will debut on September 23rd, led by Adam Stotsky and his team.

Under the effective leadership of Salaam Coleman-Smith, the Style team has demonstrated enormous passion and dedication to their brand.  We are committed to making the pending changes as smooth as possible for everyone at Style.  Salaam will play an integral role in the transition and at NBCUniversal in the future.

I’ve given months of careful thought to this realignment.  And, I truly believe we’ve come up with the best possible strategy to take our business to even greater heights.

Thanks as always for your continued support.