NBCU Shakes Up Cable, Adds Univision’s Conde


NBCUniversal shook up its executive ranks and cable-network portfolio with several major announcements last week.

In a surprise move, the company tapped former Univision president Cesar Conde for a newly created executive vice president position. Conde, who served as Univision’s president since 2009 and led the Spanish-language channel to unprecedented ratings success, will focus on business development, strategic priorities and special business projects for NBCUniversal, reporting directly to CEO Steve Burke, company officials said. Conde, who will serve as a member of the NBCUniversal Executive Committee, will also oversee the International Group.

With Conde moving to NBCUniversal, Univision announced a reorganization of its Univision Networks management, although the network has decided it will not fill Conde’s position. Alberto Ciurana, president of programming and content; Isaac Lee, president of news; and Juan Carlos Rodriquez, president of Univision Deportes, will report directly to Univision Communications CEO Randy Falco, a onetime top NBC executive.

Earlier in the week, NBCU made several changes to its cable networks under the oversight of NBCUniversal Cable Group Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer. Seven months after assuming responsibility for NBCU’s entire cable entertainment portfolio, Hammer is positioning the networks and the executives who run them under her purview to maximize both audience appeal and advertising strength, industry observers said.

NBCUniversal surprised the industry last week by deciding to rebrand Style network — the lowest-rated of NBCU’s female-targeted networks that also include Bravo, E! and Oxygen — into the male-skewing Esquire Channel. Initially, Esquire was to supercede the gaming and technology-themed G4.

Hammer, who built Syfy and USA Network into successful and recognizable brands, believes the move better positions the network’s branding efforts in its outreach toward both demos. She said as much in an internal e-mail to staffers regarding the announcement, explaining that Style presented a “brand overlap” within the company’s portfolio of female-skewing networks.

With Esquire and the stayed-from-execution G4, NBCU will have two male-targeted networks. Adam Stosky will now oversee both Esquire — which launches Sept. 23 and is expected to appeal to a young, upscale male audience — and G4. It’s unclear, however, what NBCU plans to do with G4 — the network had cancelled all of its original programming as it prepared for the Esquire Network takeover. G4, which is in front of more than 60 million homes, averaged 146,000 viewers this past summer.

Style, with more than 10 million additional subscribers than G4, averaged only 183,000 viewers in primetime this summer. In comparison, Bravo generated 962,000 viewers, E! garnered 658,000 watchers, and Oxygen drew 367,000 viewers.

Francis Berwick will oversee NBCU’s three remaining female-skewing networks for Hammer, adding Oxygen to her responsibility of overseeing both Bravo and E!. Former Oxygen head Jason Klarman will leave the company.

This is not the first major directional shift for Esquire — the network’s launch date was pushed back from April to September. Some of Style’s roughly 100 employees will be laid off , but NBCU said it would look to move as many of those workers into other posts as it can. Style executive vice president Salaam Coleman Smith will also likely find another position within the organization.

NBCU and Hammer also weren’t afraid to mix things up at top-rated USA Network. Network co-president Chris McCumber was made the sole leader of the “Characters Welcome” network. Former co-president Jeff Wachtel was promoted to the newly created position of president and chief content officer, NBCU Cable Entertainment.