EXCLUSIVE: USA Network veteran Jeff Wachtel is getting a bigger role in the recently merged NBCUniversal entertainment cable operations under chairman Bonnie Hammer. Wachtel, most recently co-president of USA and co-head, original content, Universal Cable Prods, has been promoted to the newly created position of President and Chief Content Officer, NBCU Cable Entertainment. In that role, Wachtel will serve as a creative point of entry for the company’s entire portfolio of 12 networks, taking in pitches that he would then recommend to the brand(s) for which he feels they’d be the best suited. In doing so, Wachtel will work closely with the presidents and development teams at each network. He also will assume sole oversight of NBCU Cable Entertainment’s production entities — Universal Cable Prods for scripted series and Wilshire Studios for unscripted shows. Wachtel most recently co-ran UCP with Syfy’s Mark Stern. In his new role, Wachtel will work closely with Steve Dolcemaschio, who will become Chief Operating Officer of UCP and Wilshire Studios.
Chris McCumber, who had served as co-president of USA alongside Wachtel since 2011, has now been named sole president of the cable network, which has been No. 1 for the past seven years. He is a 12-year USA veteran, having joined in 2001 as SVP On-Air Promotion. “Over the past two and a half years as co-president, Chris has proven himself a fantastic leader with a deep understanding of the enormous strength and equity of the USA brand,” Hammer said. “He is perfectly positioned to shepherd USA into an exciting new chapter.”
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USA Network co-presidents Chris McCumber and Jeff Wachtel will receive the Television Showman of the Year Award at ICG Publicists 50th Annual Awards Luncheon … Read More »
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
It was supposed to be a sober, nostalgic, reflective visit with Rescue Me writer-producer-star Denis Leary, showrunner Peter Tolan and castmates Steven Pasquale and Callie Thorne as the iconic FX firefighter hour wraps up seven seasons on Sept. 7, four days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11. What it turned into Saturday morning at TCA was the most raucous and entertaining panel of the 12-day event to date, as Leary and Tolan put on a show for critics bleary-eyed from the nonstop coverage that finally wraps Monday.
Things started to get crazy about halfway through the 30-minute panel, when Leary observed with his usual manic energy, “You guys have spent, what, three fucking weeks here talking to TV people and now you’re fuckin’ bored.” Tolan then picked up the ball and added, “I’m going to take my pants off.” That led into a fresh rant from Leary, who railed: “By the way, USA (Network) is fuckin’ raiding Rescue Me. (Steven) Pasquale’s shooting a pilot (Over/Under) for them. Callie (Thorne) is starring in a show (Necessary Roughness) for ‘em. I’m writing a pilot for ‘em.” Tolan: “I’m doing very mild janitorial work. … And working for just a few weeks as (USA programming chief) Jeff Wachtel’s fluffer.”
Shortly thereafter, to help boost the excitement of the festivities, Tolan stood and pulled down his pants to reveal very oddly colored briefs. Much laughter and applause ensued. A critic then tried to ask a serious question: Does Leary fear that his role on Rescue Me is one he will now always be identified with, perhaps to his detriment? Tolan decided to intercept that one: “When you say that Denis will be remembered for this part, I think you’re forgetting Operation Dumbo Drop.” The room roared. Read More »
With Bonnie Hammer taking on a much larger portfolio following the NBC-Comcast merger, she is ceding control over day-to-day operations of NBCUniversal’s flagship cable network USA.
Hammer will continue to oversee … Read More »
USA Network is now officially a reality player. After an extensive search, the top basic cable network has hired syndication and unscripted executive Heather Olander as SVP alternative programming. Olander, who has started this week, will oversee all … Read More »
Syfy’s EVP original programming Mark Stern has been named president. He continues to report to Dave Howe, President, Syfy and Chiller. Stern also co-heads original content for Universal Cable Prods. … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: USA has given a formal green light to the Burn Notice movie prequel starring Bruce Campbell, which will be directed by Burn Notice star Jeffrey Donovan. The two will also executive produce with Burn Notice creator Matt Nix, who … Read More »
USA Network has handed out cast-contingent pilot orders to three more hourlong projects, Eden, about a resourceful young hotel concierge, Wild Card, about 2 very different lawyers in Las Vegas, and Over/Under, about an ex-day trader with a gambling problem who starts a new life. That is addition to the 3 pilots the cable network has in various stages of production or pre-production, Necessary Roughness, Common Law and A Legal Mind, bringing the total number of pilots to 6, the most ever for USA in a calendar year. ”The company is investing in our success,” said USA president of original programming Jeff Wachtel, who noted that USA is projected to top the cable ratings for a fifth year in a row despite increased competition. “We’re fighting to stay No.1, and we have to step up our game. You do that by building up your portfolio, pushing out with a little more volume and moving outside your comfort zone by pushing with genre and tone.” He said that all 6 new pilots have ”a little bit more bite, more edge to them but are still very much in our sweet spot.” Read More »
USA Network continues its genre expansion with a big push in reality programming. The top basic cable network is close to ordering its first unscripted series in 5 years, WWE Tough Enough. It is also in the process of hiring a reality executive, and USA programming president Jeff Wachtel has been meeting with top reality production companies to talk about his plans in the arena. USA’s revival of Tough Enough actually came together separately from its current efforts in the unscripted area and stems from the network’ relationship with WWE through USA staple WWE Raw. Tough Enough, which features contestants competing for a contract with WWE, ran on MTV for 3 seasons, and in 2004 it moved to UPN where it aired for a season as part of SmackDown. On USA, it also is expected to run in tandem with USA’s WWE Raw series. Read More »
If you’re developing a prequel to your hit series Burn Notice built around Comic-Con fave Bruce Campbell, what better place to announce the plan than Comic-Con! That’s exactly what Jeff Wachtel, USA Network’s president of original programming, did at … Read More »