NBCUniversal shakes up cable management; McCumber takes over USA

NBCUniversal is shaking up the management of its entertainment cable channels and announced a change of strategy for a new network based on Esquire magazine.

The biggest executive shift comes at USA Network, where Chris McCumber was named president. McCumber had been working in tandem with Jeff Wachtel as co-president of the channel for nearly three years. USA Network is NBCUniversal's most profitable asset.

"Chris has proven himself a fantastic leader with a deep understanding of the enormous strength and equity of the USA brand," Bonnie Hammer, chairman of the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group, said in an email to her staff announcing the changes. McCumber is based in New York.

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McCumber, who came up through the marketing ranks, "has played a critical role in establishing USA as an industry powerhouse ... [and] is perfectly positioned to shepherd USA into an exciting new chapter," Hammer wrote.

Wachtel, who is based in Los Angeles and had been the network's top programming executive, will step into a newly created position as president and chief content officer of NBCU Cable Entertainment. He will have oversight of the cable division's two production studios, Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios.

"Jeff's development track record at USA is the envy of the TV business, so it makes sense to maximize his original programming expertise and business savvy by extending his purview across the entire portfolio," Hammer wrote in the email.

Frances Berwick, who has been president of Bravo, will take over Oxygen, one of NBCUniversal's small cable channels, so that the channel works in concert with Bravo.

"She'll not only bring to Oxygen her impeccable brand savvy, but also identify key synergies to bring the same must-see passion to an all-new audience," Hammer said.

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Jason Klarman, who has been running Oxygen, will be leaving the company. Klarman was a protege of Lauren Zalaznick, who used to oversee Oxygen but is now in charge of digital ventures for NBCUniversal.

NBCUniversal is also changing its strategy regarding the launch of the Esquire channel. Originally G4, a channel aimed at young men that focused on video games, was going to be converted to Esquire. Now the Style Network instead will transition to Esquire,

Adam Stotsky will lead the Esquire Channel, as previously announced. Salaam Coleman-Smith, who has been president of Style, will stay on to help with the transition. 

The new Esquire Network will debut Sept. 23 in about 75 million homes.

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