Last night the news broke that Angela Bromstad would be departing her post as NBC Universal’s head of primetime entertainment and Universal Media Studios. The timing was the only surprise, and even that shock was minimal: once Comcast became NBCU’s official owner, Bromstad’s time was up.
This is the second time Bromstad has departed the media conglomerate, and her second go-round was less successful than her first, although arguably more challenged.
Bromstad first joined NBC in May 1994 as director of movies and mini-series for NBC and steadily rose through the ranks. Exactly ten years after joining the company, Bromstad was named co-president of NBC Universal Television Studio in May 2004, right after NBC acquired Universal Entertainment.
Like so many of Hollywood’s top jobs, Bromstad has had to fight to keep her post ever since.
As she told the Los Angeles Times’ Meg James in 2009: “I have always tried to fly a bit below the radar,” she said. “I am a bit superstitious about it. The higher your profile the more of a target you sometimes become.”
What’s been different for Bromstad, however, is that she lost the battle at one point, and then was able to return and pick back up where she left off. Once most top TV programmers lose their high-profile jobs, they fade off to something a little less spotlit - and probably feel completely relieved about the change.
In 2007, Bromstad became a casualty of the in-fighting at NBC that swirled around Jeff Zucker’s hiring of Ben Silverman and firing of Kevin Reilly. She had hoped to remain head of the studio, but that was not to be. Silverman brought in his top lieutenant, the ultimately much-reviled Teri Weinberg, to run the studio instead. The story of NBC’s decline in the Silverman era is well-documented, so no need to review that.
Instead of leaving NBC altogether, Bromstad agreed to be fabulously exiled to London, where she was named president of international television production. It’s not the high-profile job that running the studio is, but acquiring and selling TV formats while traveling the world is not a bad gig. Moreover, you get to be away from a studio’s niggling politics and that has got to feel freeing.
Upon returning to Los Angeles, Bromstad told James: “It feels great to be home,” she said. “It helped to get away from Hollywood politics. It’s good to be realistic about the issues that we are facing, but I’m not worn out.”
Once the Silverman reign crumbled, Bromstad was brought back to NBC in December 2008 and this time given the title she had initially wanted: president of primetime entertainment, NBC and Universal Media Studios.
But it was too late. Bromstad returned right when NBC was prepping to try Jay Leno in primetime, and we all know where that ended up. She ended up launching such dogs as Mercy, Trauma, Knight Rider, My Own Worst Enemy and the list goes on. She can also claim credit for some NBC gems, including Parenthood and Community, but those shows are so little-watched that even if they are well-loved, they can hardly be considered successes. (Ad Age’s Brian Steinberg takes on this topic here.)
With Bromstad’s departure, the way is now completely clear for Robert Greenblatt to come in, roll up his sleeves, bring in his own team (Deadline.com opines on who some of those people might be), and show us if he’s got what it takes to turn around a broadcast network. It’s been clear all through the Comcast transition that Greenblatt has demanded complete creative control over NBC primetime. Now that he’s got it, he’s got to prove that he warrants it. Greenblatt did wonders for Showtime during his time there, but NBC will be a much tougher test.