After an uneven summer at the box office, from the high of Despicable Me 2 to the low of R.I.P.D., NBCUniversal shook up the film studio Monday, installing TV veteran Jeff Shell in a newly created top post.
Shell, who had spent the past two years heading NBCU's international TV operations, will become chairman of the company's filmed entertainment group. He will oversee worldwide operations for the motion picture group, including theatrical and home entertainment.
The announcement coincided with reorganization and rebranding moves rippling through NBC, Oxygen, Style, USA and other NBCU TV holdings that had media watchers buzzing Monday.
Shell replaces Adam Fogelson, who is leaving Universal after a 15-year run. Ron Meyer, Hollywood's longest serving studio chief and a survivor of studio ownership regimes from Matsushita to Vivendi to General Electric, is shifting to a vice chairman role for NBC Universal, extending his contract through 2017. Donna Langley was promoted to chairman of Universal Pictures (a unit of the larger Filmed Entertainment Group).
Shell and Meyer will continue to report to Steve Burke, CEO, NBCUniversal. Langley will report to Shell.
"First and foremost Jeff is a terrific media executive," said Burke, "I have worked with him for over a decade and have been consistently impressed by his strategic vision, operational focus and energy. In addition, having led NBCUniversal's international operations for the last two and a half years, Jeff is perfectly positioned to lead our film group at a time when global expansion is more important than ever."
Prior to his international TV stint, Shell served as President of Comcast Programming Group, where he managed Comcast's interests and investments in its national and regional television networks. He had also previously served as CEO of Gemstar TV Guide International and held a number of positions within News Corporation, including president of the Fox Cable Networks Group. Shell also worked in the Strategic Planning Group at The Walt Disney Co. and at Salomon Brothers Inc. He was recently appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to be chair of the Broadcast Board of Governors, and began serving in August.
The company's official announcement noted Universal is headed for a record box office take in 2013, but production budgets continue to rise and strategy grows more complex with ancillary windows and international territory distribution increasingly crucial to films' success.