How a Tough Pilot Season Got NBC’s Studio Boss Ousted

Bela Bajaria lasted only a year as president of division that makes “Chicago Fire”

Last Updated: May 31, 2016 @ 6:52 PM

The just-concluded TV pilot season has already claimed its first victim: Universal Television president Bela Bajaria.

Bajaria is abruptly exiting as of NBC Universal’s in-house studio after just one year with that title and a couple weeks after network executives presented their new fall schedules to advertisers in New York.

UTV, which produces such fare as “Chicago Med,” “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.,” is an important part of the empire of parent company Comcast, especially in an era in which networks seek to own the shows they air.

But NBC boss Bob Greenblatt wasn’t pleased with Bajaria’s development roster, according to a person familiar with the situation.

UTV placed a big drama pilot bet on “Miranda’s Rights,” a legal soap. But NBC programmers passed on that show and instead picked “This Is Us,” a dramedy about characters with interlocking lives, and “Timeless,” about a time-traveling criminal.

“This Is Us” already has a key promotional element in place. The trailer has been viewed a record-setting total of more than 70 million times since NBC posted it on May 15.

The problem is that neither “This Is Us” nor “Timeless” is owned by NBC. “This Is Us” is from the Fox studio division; “Timeless” is from Sony. The parent companies of networks strive to own the shows they broadcast because of the long-term value a hit show can create. Airing a series created by another studio means paying a license fee to a competitor and seeing no back-end value.

UTV did produce two drama pilots that NBC picked up, Dick Wolf‘s “Chicago Justice” and the supernatural thriller “Midnight, Texas.” But both are slated for midseason. Another drama pilot, the CIA thriller “Taken,” was ordered straight to series.

Bajaria, a longtime CBS executive prior to joining NBC in 2011, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

NBC is expected to tap Pearlena Igbokwe, its current head of drama, as a replacement, although that move has not been finalized.