Universal Media Studios goes back to the future as Universal Television, which will be headed by Bela Bajaria. Also on board are Russell Rothberg, Erin Underhill, Tracey Pakosta and Beth Klein.
NBC Entertainment has renamed its television production company, Universal Media Studios, as Universal Television, and made several executive appointments in the division as part of an initiative to re-establish the operation as a production studio that serves the NBC network as well as a range of other networks.
The newly named studio, led by Executive Vice President Bela Bajaria (who joined NBCUniversal last month), will include Russell Rothberg, formerly senior vice president, drama programming, NBC and UMS, who will head the studio’s drama department as senior vice president, drama, Universal Television.
Joining him in the drama area will be Erin Underhill, formerly SVP, current programming, NBC and UMS, who now becomes SVP, drama, Universal Television, reporting to Rothberg.
In addition, Tracey Pakosta comes to Universal Television to head the comedy department as SVP, comedy. And Beth Klein joins the studio, most recently from Showtime, to lead the new casting department as SVP, casting. An additional comedy executive will also be announced shortly.
The announcements were made by Bajaria who runs this new division that reports to Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment.
The moves return the studio to its former namesake — Universal Television — which existed prior to NBC’s acquisition of Universal in 2004.
The studio’s new logo pays homage to its legacy with a global-inspired trademark that is reminiscent of its earlier years but has been slightly updated.
Universal Television produces or co-produces series for primetime, latenight, longform, reality and digital media projects for a variety of broadcast networks as well as online outlets. Its current roster features Emmy-winning comedies The Office, 30 Rock and critical favorite Parks and Recreation, as well as dramas House (one of television’s top-rated series globally), Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, among others.
Additionally, the studio, along with Wolf Films, produces Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which is part of the most successful drama series brand in television history.
New scripted series produced by Universal Television for the 2011-12 season include the dramas Prime Suspect, Smash, Grimm and comedies Whitney, Up All Night, Free Agents, Bent and Best Friends Forever (working title).
Universal Television has a rich legacy comprising merged entities of NBC Studios and the original Universal Television. The former NBC Studios first made its mark in the 1950s with NBC’s hit western Bonanza and went on to create hit series including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Providence and Will & Grace. Universal Television was created in 1951, and its roster of memorable programs includes Leave It to Beaver, Columbo, The Rockford Files, Miami Vice and Law & Order, among dozens of others.