Is there something in the water? In Los Angeles, TV executives are dropping like flies—though each appears to be leaving for different reasons. Weeks ago, CBS Chairman__Les Moonves__ resigned from his post amid allegations of sexual misconduct. (As he stepped down, Moonves issued a statement that said, in part, “Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am.”) Last week, rumors that Ben Sherwood, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, would leave Disney as the company completed its merger with Fox, proved to be true. And on Monday, news broke that Bob Greenblatt, who managed to turn the troubled ship of NBC programming around during his nearly eight-year tenure, would leave the company not in a matter of months, as first reported on Friday, but presently.
Vultures Josef Adalian first broke the news that employees at 30 Rock received a letter Monday both confirming Greenblatts departure and clarifying the impetus for his exit. A representative for NBC provided V.F. with the letter, from NBCUniversal C.E.O. Steve Burke, as well as Greenblatts farewell to employees, in full.
“This was a difficult decision for Bob,” Burke wrote, “but after a string of extremely successful years at NBC — and as much as Id like him to stay — he is ready to embark on a new challenge.” Burke praised Greenblatt for helping NBC pull off what he called one of the largest turnarounds in network TV history, from right after Comcasts acquisition of NBCUniversal to a five-season streak of wins as No. 1 in the key 18-49 demo. “This year, Bob led NBC to become the most-watched network in household ratings for the first time in nearly two decades,” Burke wrote. “He has also brought a winning spirit to the network and attracted the best creative talent in the business.”
Greenblatt helped shepherd NBC through rough waters, raising its comedy slate in particular back to its former glory with hits like The Good Place. He also oversaw the development of the wildly popular series This Is Us, which has proven to be a ratings success story of epic proportions, as well as an awards favorite.
Two successors will take Greenblatts place, Burke wrote: alternative chief Paul Telegdy and cable production studio co-head George Cheeks, who will step up to share the title of co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment. As Vulture notes, arrangements like this are not unheard of; over at Fox, Dana Walden and Gary Newman share similar responsibilities. Greenblatt, Burke said, will consult with both of his successors as needed, and continue to work with the network on its live musicals—another achievement Burke hailed in his farewell.
In his own goodbye letter, Greenblatt wrote, “It is with very mixed feelings that I have decided to leave NBC after nearly eight years. I love this network and our parent company, but since NBC is back on track and has achieved such great success I think its time for me to turn to a new challenge.”
Greenblatt praised both Burke and Comcast C.E.O. Brian Roberts for their support and investment in the network; he also thanked his employees for their own commitment to the networks success. He, like Burke, called out the networks status as the years No. 1 most-watched network, saying he never thought that achievement would be possible. “And while people tend to give me too much of the credit for these milestones, the truth is they only happened because of the incredible management teams across the entire company,” Greenblatt wrote. He called out several senior managers by name, as well as Jennifer Salke, who recently exited NBC to head Amazons TV division. And finally, he thanked all of the creators, producers, performers, writers, and crew members who have worked at the network over the years.
“Steve has asked me to consult with Paul and George as needed in the future and Im happy to help in any way I can,” Greenblatt wrote as he closed his letter. “And wherever my new journey takes me, I hope to find ways to do business with many of you and maintain so many of our friendships. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Upheaval within the TV industry has been churning for several months. AT&Ts merger with Time Warner has already spawned a new, Netflix-like approach at HBO, which courted skepticism this summer. Meanwhile, Disney and Comcasts fight for Fox fueled uncertainty for months. Now, Fox faces a Disney-fied future, and employees including Ben Sherwood will be sent marching in a bid to trim redundancies. As Variety reported Friday, Sherwood had been considering his options as Foxs Peter Rice prepared to take over his position. Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger had been eager to keep Sherwood on board, per Variety, and initially, Sherwood was interested in possibly overseeing Sky News, before Disney lost out on that acquisition battle to Comcast. With that possibility off the table, it seems Sherwood could not be enticed.
Beyond all of the tectonic shifts within the broadcast space, there is also an ever-increasing flood of competition from cable, premium cable, and streaming platforms. Given the nature of this transition, and Greenblatts willingness to consult, the changes at NBC could be pretty smooth—but given the perpetual commotion within this industry as a whole, “smooth” is always relative.
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Laura BradleyLaura Bradley is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.