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HomeIndustry SectorFilmDonna Langley, the Queen of Universal Pictures, Gets an Even Bigger Throne...

Donna Langley, the Queen of Universal Pictures, Gets an Even Bigger Throne at NBCUniversal

Donna Langley, who’s in the midst of a strong year as the head of Universal Pictures, is about to expand her kingdom, as she’s taking control of all content and creative operations across NBCUniversal and its portfolio of brands.

Comcast president Mike Cavanagh, who now oversees NBCU following the controversy-fueled exit of CEO Jeff Shell back in April, announced the leadership shakeup on Thursday as part of a larger restructuring, though he did not name a new CEO.

Going forward, NBCUniversal will consist of four key units — NBCUniversal Studio Group, which will be run by Langley; NBCUniversal Media Group, which will be led by Mark Lazarus, the company’s chairman of TV and streaming; NBCU News Group, which will continue to be led by Cesar Conde; and the Universal Destinations and Experiences Group, run by current parks boss Mark Woodbury.

With her promotion to chairman of NBCUniversal Studio Group and chief content officer, Langley gains oversight of all creative across film, television, and streaming, though Peacock still falls under Matt Strauss from an operational standpoint. Langley previously spent a decade as the Chairman of Universal Pictures before being upped to chair of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group in 2019.

Frances Berwick
Frances Berwick photo via NBCUniversal

Meanwhile, Frances Berwick has been upped to chairman of NBCUniversal Entertainment, and she’ll report to both Langley and Lazarus, who has been promoted to chairman of NBCUniversal Media Group. Berwick effectively replaces Susan Rovner, who is exiting as the chairman of entertainment content for NBCU TV and streaming.

“We appreciate all of Susan’s valuable contributions and thank her for all she’s done during her time at NBCU,” Cavanagh said in a statement that claimed Rovner “decided to step down” following the restructuring.

Elsewhere, Universal Television president Pearlena Igbokwe will remain in her current role.

Langley is a seasoned executive and a class act in a town where class seems to be in short supply. She brought the Jurassic Park franchise back from extinction, slammed on the accelerator when it came to building out the Fast and Furious franchise, and wisely invested in horror creators such as Jason Blum, Jordan Peele, and M. Night Shyamalan. She also has two top-tier animation studios at her disposal between DreamWorks Animation and  Illumination Entertainment, the latter of which scored a billion-dollar hit earlier this year with The Super Mario Bros Movie.

For more on the NBCUniversal restructuring, check out Cavanagh’s memo to NBCU employees below:

Dear Colleagues,

It has been two and a half months since I stepped in to lead NBCUniversal, and I want to thank all of you and the leadership team for keeping the business humming during this time. I’ve had the privilege of spending time with many of you as I visited with all of our businesses. I’ve been deeply immersed in the day-to-day business of NBCU, which has reinforced what I already knew – that NBCU is a very special place with tremendous opportunities ahead.

Here are some of my specific observations:

  1. We have an incredible depth of talent and a strong leadership team. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been inspired by our people. Individuals at all levels of the company have stepped up, filled voids, and enabled NBCU to continue operating seamlessly. We have not missed a beat. I’m grateful to the entire leadership team for the stability and strength they bring to this company.  
  1. NBCU benefits from a diverse array of businesses, each with leading market positions. We have the best, most innovative creative capabilities, which have developed powerful franchises, attracting large audiences and delivering premium monetization. We are the #2 Film studio in global market share this year, with nearly $3 billion in box office receipts to date. Our five global theme parks are firing on all cylinders with exceptional demand. We have the #1 TV portfolio by total audience with the largest reach of any media company. Our TV studio is award-winning and prolific. We’re the #1 most watched News organization in the U.S. And sports is a huge driver with the NFL, Premiere League, a record-breaking World Cup on Telemundo, Big 10 debuting this fall and the Paris Olympics coming up next year.
  1. We have the right business strategy for the future. We produce premium content through our studios, distribute it through our TV networks, Peacock and third parties, and further monetize this content with our theme parks and consumer products. This strategy, combined with our superior execution, differentiates us from our competitors. We are also able to pivot as needed to adapt to market conditions and an evolving media and technology landscape. Peacock is a good example. We launched Peacock with a different thesis than most: an ad-supported model that is an extension of our existing business. We set out a plan, which we have adapted as needed, and we have great momentum. Peacock is strong and growing, more than doubling our paid subscriber base in 2022 to more than 22 million, with over $2 billion in annual revenue.
  1. We are stronger together, both across NBCUniversal and as a part of Comcast. Our ability to take advantage of being one company sets us apart. First, the diversity of businesses within NBCU strengthen each other. Symphony – and the philosophy that we are better together– is core to how we operate. We also have the strength and benefit of being part of Comcast. We have $120 billion in revenue, the majority of which is in growth categories, including broadband, wireless, business services, parks, streaming and studios, and this is growing nearly 10 percent year over year. And we have the strongest balance sheet in the industry. Together this gives us the capacity to continue investing in our future. Our position of strength is an advantage for every part of this company. 

Without a doubt, consumer trends such as cord-cutting and new competitors, particularly from the technology sector, present challenges for us. But I firmly believe that we have the business strategy, management depth, and financial strength to emerge as long-term winners and value creators as the media landscape evolves.

With that goal in mind, I’m pleased to announce a new leadership structure for NBCU that takes advantage of the strengths of our leadership team and the power of the business as a whole. I will continue to lead NBCU as President of Comcast and will not name a new CEO. Instead, I will hand responsibility to a core leadership team to work with me in pursuit of the opportunities outlined above. The new leadership team will be made up of four operational heads: Donna Langley, Mark Lazarus, Cesar Conde, and Mark Woodbury; and four key corporate leaders: Kimberley Harris, Anand Kini, Adam Miller, and Craig Robinson. This new structure will facilitate a streamlined decision-making process and foster even more collaboration across our company.

As part of this new structure, we will create the NBCUniversal Studio Group led by Donna Langley, the NBCUniversal Media Group led by Mark Lazarus, and a broadly expanded NBCU News Group led by Cesar Conde – plus the rapidly growing Universal Destinations & Experiences Group led by Mark Woodbury.

Donna Langley will become Chairman, NBCUniversal Studio Group & Chief Content Officer. In this role, Donna will oversee a unified content strategy across the broad NBCUniversal portfolio, bringing together our Film and Television Studios. Donna will oversee NBCU’s suite of creative teams including Universal Filmed Entertainment Group (Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation) and Universal Studio Group (Universal Television, Universal Content Productions, Universal Television Alternative Studios, Universal International Studios). Donna has been shaping the cultural conversation and creating the framework for what a modern-day studio can accomplish through bold content, impactful marketing and business model innovation. She will leverage her longstanding relationships with the creative community and ability to partner with the most prolific storytellers in our business to unlock a seamless cross-portfolio creative strategy including programming, distribution and marketing across Film, Television and Streaming. Pearlena Igbokwe will continue to lead our four powerhouse TV studios under the Universal Studio Group umbrella. Under Pearlena’s three-year tenure, Universal Studio Group has seen an impressive revenue increase and year-over-year volume growth. The studio, which has 108 active series currently airing or streaming globally, is consistently responsible for 5 of the top 10 broadcast series and several #1 series across multiple streaming platforms. This unique combination will leverage the creative power, talent relationships, and valuable IP from both film and TV.

Mark Lazarus will become Chairman, NBCUniversal Media Group. In this role, Mark will run the company’s TV and Streaming platforms, distribution and monetization. He will continue to run our television networks, Direct to Consumer business, including Peacock, as well as the NBC Sports Group and NBC affiliate relations. Mark will permanently oversee advertising sales, which will continue to report to Mark Marshall, Interim Chairman, Global Advertising and Partnerships. He will now also oversee our content distribution business, which will continue to report to Matt Bond, Chairman, Content Distribution. Together, these businesses comprised more than $20 billion in revenue last year. Mark’s decades of experience running television, sports and advertising sales – both within NBCUniversal and earlier in his career – will be critical to the long-term growth of NBCUniversal’s media business.

As part of this restructure, Susan Rovner has decided to step down, and Frances Berwick will be elevated to Chairman, NBCUniversal Entertainment, a newly formed role reporting into both Mark Lazarus and Donna Langley. In this role, Frances will add original content across broadcast, cable and Peacock to her current responsibilities running our linear entertainment networks. Susan has agreed to remain with us for a bit to help ensure a smooth transition for her team and our creative partners. During her time here, Susan and her team have played an integral role in developing and greenlighting hit programming across NBCU’s entertainment portfolio, including brand-defining series for Peacock as well as breakout hits for NBC and the continued success of our Bravo franchises, almost all of which have seen year over year growth under her leadership. We appreciate all of Susan’s valuable contributions and thank her for all she’s done during her time at NBCU. 

Cesar Conde will expand his role as Chairman, NBCUniversal News Group (NBC News, CNBC, MSNBC, NBC News NOW) to include overseeing NBCUniversal Local, which will continue to report to Valari Staab, Chairman, NBCUniversal Local; and the NBCU Telemundo Enterprises Group, which will continue to report to Beau Ferrari, Chairman, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises. Under Cesar’s leadership, the NBCU News Group became the most-watched news organization in the country across all platforms and created the largest and fastest-growing streaming news network. In his expanded role, Cesar will oversee NBCUniversal Local, which includes among other businesses 43 NBC/Telemundo stations across the country. He will also oversee Telemundo Enterprises, which includes its Entertainment, News, Sports and Studio operations. Cesar previously led NBCU International and Telemundo when it became the number one Spanish-language network in prime time for the first time in history. Based on that experience as well as his excellent record leading the News Group, he is the ideal person to take on this expanded role. NBCUniversal Local and Telemundo Enterprises Group will fit seamlessly with our News Group and will enable even more growth and collaboration across the division.

Mark Woodbury will continue to be Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Universal Destinations & Experiences, where he oversees the company’s destinations worldwide, including Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Japan and Universal Beijing Resort, as well as the company’s growing consumer products and merchandise group. Mark will lead the charge as we continue to expand our growing Destinations & Experiences business. This includes projects such as Epic Universe, opening in 2025, as well as new experiences in the works, such as the recently announced park specifically for younger audiences in Frisco, TX, and the first year-round horror entertainment experience in Las Vegas, NV. Mark and his team will continue to bring our unique content and IP to life, and to be trusted stewards of great IP from external partners as well, such as the recently opened Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood.

This core leadership team will also include: Kimberley Harris, Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation and General Counsel of NBCUniversal; Anand Kini, Executive Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Comcast Corporation and Chief Financial Officer, NBCUniversal; Adam Miller, Executive Vice President, NBCUniversal, who oversees Communications, Human Resources, Operations and Technology; and Craig Robinson, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer.

I’m very excited to work with this team to build on our great momentum and drive NBCU forward.  Thank you to all for your efforts and hard work.

Mike

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