NBC Appoints Nigeria’s Pearlena Igbokwe as First Black woman to lead Universal Studio Group

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Igbokwe was the first Black woman to run a major TV studio

Longtime TV executive Bonnie Hammer takes on advisory role

As the new chairman of Universal Studio Group, Igbokwe replaces Bonnie Hammer, a longtime cable-TV executive who will take on an advisory role at the company.

The promotion helps NBCUniversal diversify its top management ranks. Igbokwe, who emigrated from Nigeria as a child, became the first Black woman to run a major TV studio when she was named head of Universal Television in 2016.

In that role, she oversaw shows like “The Good Place,” “Superstore” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” She previously worked at Showtime.

The move marks the latest leadership change at the Comcast’s entertainment division under NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Jeff Shell, who was promoted to his post in January.

It’s also the latest major shake-up at a TV studio this week. On Tuesday, Netflix Inc. named Bela Bajaria the head of a new global television division, promoting her over 18-year veteran Cindy Holland.

Currently, Pearlena oversees the production of over 2500 hours of programming currently airing or streaming around the globe and manages a slate of ambitious storytellers including Tina Fey, Seth MacFarlane, Amy Poehler, Dick Wolf, Lorne Michaels, Michael Schur, Nahnatchka Khan, Sam Esmail, Julie Plec, Larry Wilmore, Debra Martin Chase, Gareth Neame, Alan Yang, David Heyman, Sean Hayes, and Tanya Saracho, among numerous others.

Igbokwe was born in Lagos, Nigeria in the 1960s. She lived with her family in a village which was affected by bomber planes while they depended on airlifted food during the Nigerian Civil War. She moved to the United States at the age of six.[4] She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and an MBA from Columbia University.

From June 2016 to September 2020, Igbokwe was President of Universal Television[6] where she oversaw creative development, casting and production for one of the country’s largest and most successful studios. She led the division to new heights with record volume, commercial success and critical acclaim.

Some of her programming highlights include Russian Doll, The Good Place, New Amsterdam, The Bold Type, Good Girls, and Dick Wolf’s successful new franchise, FBI and FBI: Most Wanted, among numerous other notable projects. In a highly competitive landscape, Igbokwe was able to secure pickups for her projects on every major streaming service, a variety of premium cable outlets and every broadcast network.

Before her studio role, Igbokwe served as Executive Vice President, Drama Programming[7], for NBC Entertainment, where she developed the top-rated new broadcast dramas for three out of her four years in the role (Blacklist, Blindspot and This Is Us).

Igbokwe worked at Showtime for 20 years where she was involved in developing the pilot and overseeing the first five seasons of Dexter, Showtime’s most popular series ever. She also developed the pilot for Masters of Sex, starring Michael Sheen, and supervised the Emmy Award-winning and critically acclaimed original series Nurse Jackie.

In addition, she shepherded Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union, Damon Wayans’ The Underground, Kirstie Alley’s Fat Actress and the television adaptation of the hit feature film Barbershop. She was also instrumental in the five-season run of the hit Showtime series Soul Food, a two-time NAACP Image Award winner for Best Drama Series.

Igbokwe has mined success from a number of original movies she developed for Showtime, including the Humanitas Award-nominated Jasper, Texas, starring Academy Award winners Jon Voight and Louis Gossett Jr.; the Emmy-nominated Bojangles, starring the late Gregory Hines; and the Peabody Award-winning Strange Justice.

She began her Showtime career as Manager of Direct Response, Television Marketing and earlier worked as an Associate at NBC in New York City.

Awards and Recognition
Igbokwe has been featured in numerous industry trade magazines for her leadership, including The Hollywood Reporter (Women in Entertainment Power 100, Top 35 Under 35), Variety (Power of Women), Ebony (Top 50 Showbiz Players) and Essence, among others.

Board Memberships
Igbokwe was named to the HRTS board of directors in 2017.[8][9] She also joined the NATPE board that same year.[10] She was also named an executive committee appointee to the Television Academy Executive Committee in 2019.[11][12]

Personal Life
Pearlena was born in Nigeria. She is married and has two children. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

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