NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke to Retire in August 2020

Departure coincides with the end of contract as network names Jeff Shell as replacement

Jeff Shell, right, will replace Steve Burke as CEO of NBCUniversal in January 2020.
Jeff Shell, right, will replace Steve Burke as CEO of NBCUniversal in January 2020.
Courtesy of NBCUniversal

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke will leave the company in August 2020, just months after he sees through the anticipated launch of the broadcaster’s streaming service Peacock, the company confirmed this morning.

The longtime Comcast executive, who has headed up the media and entertainment conglomerate since Comcast acquired the company in 2011, will step aside as CEO beginning Jan. 1, 2020, and will become chairman of the company. Burke will exit the company entirely on Aug. 14, 2020, immediately following the conclusion of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, to which NBCUniversal holds broadcast rights.

Jeff Shell, the chairman of NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment, will take the reins as CEO at the beginning of next year and will report to Burke until his departure, at which point Shell will report directly to Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts.

“I cannot thank Steve enough for the incredible impact he has had on this entire company,” Roberts said in a statement. “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. When Comcast acquired NBCUniversal in 2011, I never imagined it would become the fastest growing media company. Steve’s leadership and the team that he built has had everything to do with this outstanding performance.”

Burke has been at Comcast for more than two decades. In his current role, Burke, 61, has overseen everything from the company’s broadcast and cable arms to its Universal-branded theme parks. Prior to his position as head of NBCUniversal, Burke was Comcast’s chief operating officer. He previously served as president of Comcast’s cable division.

“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,” Burke said in a statement. “It is great to know I am leaving the company in terrific hands with Jeff, who is the right leader to usher in the next phase of growth and success for NBCUniversal.”

"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."
Steve Burke, CEO, NBCUniversal

Burke’s departure from the company coincides with the end of his contract, which expires in August. News of his expected departure first began percolating last week with reports from Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.

Burke’s biggest task prior to his departure will be to oversee the launch of Peacock, NBCUniversal’s ambitious but somewhat belated entrant into an already crowded streaming space dominated by services like Netflix and Hulu. The service, which is slated to debut in April, will contain some of NBCUniversal’s deep well of library content, including its ultra-popular comedy The Office, which has required the company to alter its strategy of licensing out much of its television programming to streaming services for a tidy sum.

The pricing for Peacock hasn’t been detailed, although it will almost certainly contain both ad-supported and ad-free tiers. According to CNBC NBCUniveral has reportedly considered making Peacock free and ad-supported for all viewers and give Comcast customers additional perks, CNBC reported in November; NBCUniversal is planning an investor day in mid-January to share more information about the upcoming service.

Shell, who has been with Comcast for 14 years, has overseen programming and distribution across the company’s film and television businesses, and previously served as chairman of Universal’s film. He will take over the media giant at a critical point in the company’s history as it aims to find its footing in streaming while suffering steady ratings declines on linear television as consumer habits have shifted to favor on-demand viewing and U.S. customers increasingly opt to cut the cord.

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