USA and Syfy Chief Chris McCumber Is Leaving NBCUniversal After 2 Decades

He’s the latest high-profile exit following last month’s TV overhaul

Photo of Chris McCumber
Chris McCumber joined USA Network in 2001, and has been leading the network since 2011. Lisa Berg/NBCUniversal
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Another high-profile NBCUniversal TV exec is leaving the company as a result of last month’s big overhaul.

Chris McCumber, president of USA Network and Syfy, is exiting after nearly two decades at the company, he said today.

“After nearly 20 years at this tremendous company, this has not been an easy decision. Yet I believe wholeheartedly that NBCUniversal is taking the right steps by creating a new organization built for the future,” he said in a staff memo.

His exit is a ripple effect from last month’s major NBCUniversal TV overall, as new CEO Jeff Shell created three horizontally integrated units. Frances Berwick, who previously ran NBCU’s Lifestyle Networks, heads up the Entertainment Business unit, while Peacock chairman Matt Strauss oversees the Direct-to-Consumer unit. The third unit, Entertainment Programming, will soon be run by former Warner Bros. TV president Susan Rovner, though NBCUniversal has yet to officially announce her hiring.

NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy left the company last month as part of the reorganization, and now McCumber is also departing.

McCumber joined USA Network in 2001, first working in promotion and later as head of marketing, where he oversaw the creation of the network’s “Characters Welcome” campaign. He has led USA since 2011—first as co-president with Jeff Wachtel, and then solo from 2013 on—and added Syfy to his purview in 2016.

Under his watch, USA was the No. 1 entertainment cable network for 14 years, thanks to shows like Suits, Mr. Robot, Monk and Psych.

“Together as a team, we helped make USA Network the No. 1 cable entertainment network for a record 14 years, rebooted Syfy with a fan-first perspective, won a slew of awards and created some of television’s most popular programs of all time,” McCumber wrote in the staff memo.

More recently, McCumber had overseen a shift in USA and Syfy’s strategy, as audiences had shifted away from live linear TV and NBCUniversal was directing more of its focus to new streaming service Peacock.

“I think any network has to look at themselves right now and say, ‘We have to shift to the audience’s tastes,’” he told Adweek earlier this year.

As a result, USA moved away from ongoing scripted series like Burn Notice and Suits to more live programming, including WWE’s NXT, which fills the void after USA lost SmackDown to Fox, and reality competition shows like its revival of The Biggest Loser, which aired on NBC from 2004-2016.

On the scripted side, it’s gravitating toward anthology event series like Dirty John, which moved from Bravo to USA for Season 2. “It creates a sense of urgency: ‘I’ve got to come in to see these close-ended series,” McCumber said.


@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.
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