Bonnie Hammer renewed her contract with NBC Universal, adding oversight of its new cable studio and emerging networks to her current role as president of USA Network and Sci Fi Channel. The deal ends many months of speculation that Hammer would leave the company after having seemingly missed out on promotions in more than one round of shuffling of the NBCU senior executive ranks.
Under the multiyear deal, Hammer becomes president, cable entertainment and cable studio. The promotion follows her successful four-year run atop NBCU's two largest cable networks, the growth engine for the company right now. It comes on the eve of USA's upfront presentation to advertisers in New York Wednesday night.
She will remain in the most senior position at USA and Sci Fi, but also run the company's NBCU Cable Studio (formerly part of Universal Media Studios), developing new shows for NBCU's cable networks and others. The division makes USA's Monk and Psych, Sci Fi's Battlestar Galactica and others. She also gains oversight of NBCU’s emerging-networks division under Dan Harrison. Those networks include Sleuth, Chiller and Universal HD. She contines to report to Universal TV group president and chief operating officer Jeff Gaspin.
Rumors that Hammer was not happy with her role at the company surfaced in multiple press reports after NBC's last executive switch-up, when Ben Silverman was named entertainment chief, and then again, when Bravo president Lauren Zalaznick added the newly acquired Oxygen network to her portfolio. While Hammer wasn't seen as a logical choice for those responsibilities, it was assumed that she was due for some sort of bigger piece of the NBCU pie.
The rumor mill started churning again earlier this year when Sci Fi president Dave Howe was upped to that role from executive vice president and general manager earlier this year. Hammer remained his senior at the network, but some guessed that his elevation meant that she would be stepping back on day-to-day duties there to get a more senior role at NBCU. She has been negotiating the details of this role for months, according to executives with knowledge of the matter.
Now reporting to her are Harrison and Universal Media Studios senior VP Richard Rothstein.
She will also get seats on the boards of A&E Television Networks, ShopNBC and Sundance Channel, which NBCU has an interest in.
“Bonnie is one of the most talented executives in the industry, with an amazing track record of success,” Gaspin said in a statement. “I am excited that she’ll be able to put her exceptional branding, programming and leadership skills toward an expanded portfolio of cable assets.”
“Bonnie’s achievements with USA and Sci Fi have been spectacular,” NBCU president and CEO Jeff Zucker added. “She’s a multitalented executive who knows how to run a network, program it successfully and inspire a team. I’m thrilled to have her play a bigger role at NBCU.”
“I’m thrilled to reup at NBCU, where I’ve got, from my point of view, the best job in the business,” Hammer said in a statement. “It’s an exciting new opportunity not only to manage creative assets from concept through development to final product, but also to help realize the enormous potential of the emerging-networks group. And as a bonus, I get to continue working with the two great teams at USA and Sci Fi, as well as all my friends and colleagues at NBCU.”
USA and Sci Fi have both enjoyed big success under Hammer. USA for the past two years has been the No. 1 cable network in primetime thanks to its successful originals and World Wrestling Entertainment programming, which Hammer brought back to the network after a run on Spike TV. Under Hammer, USA also carved out solid branding with its “Characters Welcome” tag line. Sci Fi has grown from a niche network to a top-10 network and a genre-owner with mainstream hits like this summer's Tin Man.
Hammer added USA to her oversight in 2004, around the NBC/Universal merger, keeping the lead Sci Fi role she had had since 2001. At Universal, she had moved up at Sci Fi from executive VP and had headed USA Original Productions.
Early in her career, Hammer executive produced This Old House, Infinity Factory and Zoom for PBS and WCVB's Good Day! morning show. She later joined Lifetime Television as an executive in original programming.
She is a member of B&C's Hall of Fame and has been honored with the National Association of Television Program Executives’ Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award, the Lillian Gish Award, the Cine Golden Eagle and the National Association for Youth's Mentor Award.