USA and Syfy Chief Chris McCumber Exits NBCUniversal as Frances Berwick Sets Leadership Team

Veteran cable executive Chris McCumber is leaving NBCUniversal.

The exec, who announced his departure in a memo to staff in Wednesday, played a key role in USA Network’s success during the aughts “blue sky” era and later developed and launched that channel’s most prestigious hit, “Mr. Robot.” Most recently he oversaw USA and sibling channel Syfy as president of entertainment networks for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment.

McCumber exits amid a massive restructuring of NBCUniversal’s television operations. Last month, his counterpart Frances Berwick, formerly head of lifestyle network for the cable group, was promoted to head of operations for all NBCU’s linear entertainment channels, including the NBC broadcast network. Outgoing Warner Bros. TV president Susan Rovner is in protracted negotiations to take over as head of programming for those channels and the Peacock streaming service.

On Wednesday, Berwick named her executive leadership team. Under Berwick, Jeff Bader will serve as head of program planning for the linear TV group; Val Boreland will be head of content strategy across the channels and Peacock; Liz Maheffy will head consumer insights; Lauren McCollester will head business affairs; NBC Sports veteran Jenny Storms will add oversight of entertainment marketing; and Chip Sullivan will serve as head of communications.

“While change can bring challenges, it also brings opportunity,” Berwick wrote to staff Wedneday. “By aligning resources and harnessing expertise from across our portfolio, we can build centralized teams that are more nimble, innovative, and overall better equipped to compete in this ever-evolving content landscape.”

Under McCumber, USA has been the highest rated entertainment cable network on television for 14 years straight.

“It’s difficult to encapsulate two decades into one note,” McCumber wrote in his note to staff. “Together as a team, we helped make USA Network the #1 cable entertainment network for a record 14 years, rebooted SYFY with a fan-first perspective, won a slew of awards, and created some of television’s most popular programs of all time. But beyond all the successes and accolades, what I’ll remember most is the special bond that we had as a team. A bond built on trust, mutual respect, and of course, having a lot of fun making great content.”

McCumber served as senior VP of on-air programs at USA from 2001 to 2004, when he was promoted to head of marketing. In 2011, McCumber was named co-president of USA alongside Jeff Wachtel. He became sole president of the network in 2013, then added Syfy to his purview in 2016.

Among the series McCumber helped launch were “Suits,” “Psych,” “Monk,” “Chrisley Knows Best” and “The Sinner.”

Read the full memo to staff from McCumber below:

Friends and Colleagues –

I’ve always promised to be open and transparent – and it is in that spirit that I wanted you to be the first to hear that I have decided to leave NBCUniversal, following a period of transition.

After nearly 20 years at this tremendous company, this has not been an easy decision. Yet I believe wholeheartedly that NBCUniversal is taking the right steps by creating a new organization built for the future.

It’s difficult to encapsulate two decades into one note. Together as a team, we helped make USA Network the #1 cable entertainment network for a record 14 years, rebooted SYFY with a fan-first perspective, won a slew of awards, and created some of television’s most popular programs of all time. But beyond all the successes and accolades, what I’ll remember most is the special bond that we had as a team. A bond built on trust, mutual respect, and of course, having a lot of fun making great content.

I know that change is not always easy, but I believe that periods of disruption always open new doors. I encourage you all to seize every opportunity that comes your way. You’ve got a front row seat to the evolution of the television business… what a gift!

I’m forever grateful and proud to have had the privilege of working alongside each and every one of you, and to call you my teammates and friends.

Thank you for the honor –

Chris

 

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