USA and SciFi Chief to Lead NBC Cable Entertainment

By Bill Carter, |The New York Times

NBC Universal signed one of its top cable network executives, Bonnie Hammer, to a new contract Monday while also expanding her duties to include control over the development of all entertainment programming for cable channels.

The move sets up an unusual division at the television studio owned by NBC Universal, with Ms. Hammer overseeing all the shows intended to be played on cable. Katherine Pope, who is president of Universal Media Studios, will now oversee development of shows only for NBC’s broadcast network.

Ms. Hammer will also begin to oversee a group of smaller cable networks owned by NBC, including the Chiller and Sleuth networks, which are devoted to horror and mystery programs.

The expansion of duties was chiefly intended to reward Ms. Hammer for her success in running the USA and SciFi networks, which have become cornerstones of NBC Universal cable. The USA Network, with programs like “Monk” and “Burn Notice,” is the top-rated cable channel. SciFi, with shows like “Battlestar Galactica,” ranks seventh.

“It’s an acknowledgment of the fantastic job she has done for the company since Day 1,” said Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric .

Ms. Hammer, in a telephone interview, said the expanded duties “make a lot of sense in terms of efficiencies.” No other top executive at a cable channel is also in charge of the studio development of programs. But, Ms. Hammer added: “Cable is a different animal. We’re always scrappers. We’ve always had our fingers in development of our shows. We don’t just hand things off.”

NBC executives said the changes would not alter the roles of Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff, the co-chairmen of NBC Universal Entertainment. They will continue to oversee all production.

Ms. Pope will be affected because she will no longer be in overall charge of all the studio’s program development. But she is expected to generate more development of programs and digital content for the NBC network and its Web site. NBC intends, for example, to produce many more original short episodes of existing shows made for the Internet.

Retaining Ms. Hammer has been a critical goal for the Mr. Zucker, who has frequently been calling NBC Universal “a cable company” because of the success of networks like USA and SciFi.

She joined the company when NBC took over Universal in 2004. Ms. Hammer had been president of SciFi since 2001 and added USA Network at that time.