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NBCUniversal appoints film studio chief as new CEO

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Via Financial Times

Comcast has named the executive who has overseen its Universal film studio as new chief executive of parent NBCUniversal, replacing Steve Burke, who will retire after the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Jeff Shell, whose role recently expanded to include oversight of the media group’s film and network television businesses after several years overseeing Universal Pictures, will assume the helm at NBCUniversal at the start of next year when Mr Burke, 61, moves to become chairman.

Mr Burke — who oversees a portfolio that includes the NBC broadcast network, Universal theme parks and cable channels like MSNBC — is set to retire on August 14, at which time Mr Shell will begin reporting directly to Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts.

“I will miss Steve’s trusted partnership, and I know I speak for both myself and my late father Ralph when I say that we will be forever grateful to him for shaping first Comcast and then NBCUniversal into the great companies they are today,” Mr Roberts said.

Mr Burke has been credited with increasing profits at NBCUniversal — taking its adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation from $3.4bn to $8.6bn since Comcast snapped up NBCUniversal in 2011 through last year. Under Mr Burke’s leadership, the company also won the broadcast rights for the Olympics through 2032.

NBC has been the only major network to maintain its viewership amid an onslaught of original programming from streaming rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime. Amazon poached Jennifer Salke from NBC Entertainment in 2019 to run its Studios division in Hollywood.

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Mr Burke has been readying to launch Peacock, a streaming service to compete with Netflix, Prime, Disney+, Apple TV+ and Hulu, in April.

In January, NBCUniversal unveiled a host of high-level executive changes, which at the time was seen as setting up a battle between Mr Shell and Mark Lazarus who oversees the broadcast network.

Mr Burke said in a statement on Monday that “while this has been a dream job, it has always been my plan to hand off the baton at the right moment and move on to the next chapter of my life where I can pursue a different set of interests.”

Comcast shares, which are up 29 per cent year-to-date, climbed 0.9 per cent to $43.99.

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