NBCUNIVERSAL ANNOUNCES A DYNAMIC NEW LEADERSHIP TEAM TO HEAD ITS NEWLY NAMED PRODUCTION COMPANY -- UNIVERSAL TELEVISION
Universal Television -- Formerly Universal Media Studios -- Names Heads of Comedy, Drama and Casting Departments Under Newly Installed Executive Vice President Bela Bajaria
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. - September 12, 2011 - NBC Entertainment has renamed its television production company, Universal Media Studios, as Universal Television, and made several key executive appointments in the division as part of a bold initiative to re-establish a thriving production studio that serves the NBC network as well as a range of other networks as a quality supplier of entertainment content.
The newly named studio, led by Executive Vice President Bela Bajaria (who joined NBCUniversal last month), will include Russell Rothberg, formerly Senior Vice President, Drama Programming, NBC and UMS, who will head the studio's drama department as Senior Vice President, Drama, Universal Television. Joining him in the drama area will be Erin Underhill, formerly Senior Vice President, Current Programming, NBC and UMS, who now becomes Senior Vice President, Drama, Universal Television, reporting to Rothberg.
In addition, Tracey Pakosta comes to Universal Television to head the comedy department as Senior Vice President, Comedy, Universal Television. And Beth Klein joins the studio, most recently from Showtime, to lead the new casting department as Senior Vice President, Casting, Universal Television. An additional comedy executive will also be announced shortly.
The announcements were made today by Bajaria who runs this new division that reports to Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment.
"We are excited to embark on the rebuilding of the studio," said Bajaria. "This incredible group brings a wide range of experience, great creative relationships and a strong belief in the studio business. We look forward to working in partnership with the creative community to produce quality shows for a variety of networks under the Universal Television banner."
"Today's announcement further demonstrates our commitment to our studio business," said Greenblatt. "Content creation is vitally important, and this new group will supervise all of the studio's current programming as well as plan for our expansion into the future. We are fortunate to have attracted a team with the highest integrity and skill who will work closely with the NBC Entertainment group and also sell and produce shows for a range of other networks. The name change to Universal Television harkens back to a company that was once a juggernaut of the business and will serve to reinforce to the creative community our stated goal of producing quality television."
Today's moves return the studio to its former namesake -- Universal Television -- which existed prior to NBC's acquisition of Universal in 2004.
The studio's new logo pays homage to its legacy with a global-inspired trademark that is reminiscent of its earlier years but has been slightly updated.
In his previous position, Rothberg developed NBC's new dramas "Awake" and "Prime Suspect," among numerous other projects. Rothberg joined NBC and Universal Media Studios in June 2009 and previously served as Vice President of Current Programming for Fox Broadcasting Company. At Fox from 2003-08, Rothberg at various times oversaw such series as "House," "Bones," "American Dad" and "The Sarah Connor Chronicles." He also provided show coverage for three seasons of "24," including its Emmy Award-winning season when it was named Outstanding Drama Series. Earlier, Rothberg was Manager of Series Programming from 2000-03. There, he developed "Wild Card" and "Missing" while he provided coverage for such current series as "Strong Medicine," "For the People" and "The Division." From 1999-2000, Rothberg worked at Warner Bros.
Underhill recently oversaw such new series as the dramas "The Playboy Club," "Awake," "Parenthood," "Chase" and the anthology series "Love Bites." She earlier developed "Heroes," "Chuck" and "Friday Night Lights" for NBC. Underhill also served at NBC as Vice President, Drama Development, and Vice President, Current Series. During her term there, she oversaw shows such as "The West Wing," "ER," "American Dreams" and "Third Watch." Earlier, Underhill was Director, Current Series.
Pakosta most recently was the partner at Green Mountain West, Craig Ferguson's production company for CBS Television Studios. She previously served as Executive Vice President of Comedy Development at The WB network, where she co-ran the comedy department and developed many projects, including hits such as "Reba" and "What I Like About You." Pakosta spent more than a decade at The WB, joining in August 1995.
Klein most recently was Showtime's Senior Vice President of Talent and Casting where she worked closely with Greenblatt for several years. While at Showtime, Klein oversaw casting for the network's scripted series, including "The Big C," "Dexter," "Weeds," "The Borgias," "The Tudors," "Queer as Folk," "The L-Word," "Nurse Jackie," "United States of Tara," "Episodes," "Shameless" and "Californication." In addition, she oversaw more than 30 made-for-television movies and the pilots for "House of Lies" and "Homeland." For the last 23 years, Klein was in charge of casting for Showtime while she also worked for other divisions of CBS/Viacom, including Viacom Prods., where she cast such series as "Ed" and "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch."
Universal Television produces some of television's most critically acclaimed and successful television programs and this year was again a dominant force in the Emmy race -- with 49 Emmy nominations and garnering six outstanding series nominations for "30 Rock," "The Office," "Parks and Recreation," "Friday Night Lights," "Saturday Night Live" and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
The studio produces or co-produces series for primetime, late-night, longform, reality and digital media projects for a variety of broadcast networks as well as online outlets. Its current roster features Emmy-winning comedies "The Office," "30 Rock," and critical favorite "Parks and Recreation," as well as dramas "House" (one of television's top-rated series globally), "Parenthood" and "Friday Night Lights," among others. Additionally, the studio, along with Wolf Films, produces "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," which is part of the most successful drama series brand in television history. Many of these series have been honored with prestigious Emmy, Golden Globe, Peabody, SAG, AFI and Humanitas Awards.
New scripted series produced by Universal Television for the 2011-2012 season include the dramas "Prime Suspect," "Smash," "Grimm" and comedies "Whitney," "Up All Night," "Free Agents," "Bent" and "Best Friends Forever" (working title).
Universal Television has a rich legacy comprised of the merged entities of NBC Studios and the original Universal Television. The former NBC Studios first made its mark in the 1950s with NBC's hit western "Bonanza" and went on to create hit series including "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Providence" and "Will & Grace." Universal Television was created in 1951, and its roster of memorable programs includes "Leave It to Beaver," "Columbo," "The Rockford Files," "Miami Vice," and "Law & Order," among dozens of others.
Late-night programs include NBC's successful "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," "Saturday Night Live," and "Last Call with Carson Daly."