*Pearlena Igbokwe, NBC Entertainment’s exec VP of drama development, has reportedly been eyed to takeover as president of Universal Television in a shakeup that many industry insiders did not see coming, Variety reports.
Igbokwe would succeed Bela Bajaria, who departs her post with two years left on her contract. Bajaria was promoted to president last year and “well liked by many of the showrunners and writers aligned with the studio, including Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, Michael Schur and Aziz Ansari,” according to Variety. “The immediate reaction of many industry insiders to the news was surprise.”
Under Bajaria, Universal TV developed a number of well-received series such as Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine Nine”; Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Master of None”; Hulu’s “The Mindy Project” and “The Path”; and A&E’s “Bates Motel.” Universal TV also landed a medical drama series on CBS’ upcoming fall schedule, “Pure Genius.”
Igbokwe joined NBC as head of development in 2012 from Showtime, where she spent 20 years. The move of Igbokwe — who has a long history working with NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt and has worked closely since joining the network with Salke — into the top role at the studio is in part an acknowledgment of the growing importance of networks owning their own programming. This upfront season saw a continued trend toward in-house ownership, with networks aggressively going after digital stacking rights and other rights when hammering out deals with outside studios. By relying more on their own studio divisions, networks are able to more easily exploit those rights.