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NBC's Pearlena Igbokwe named president of Universal TV

NBC's Pearlena Igbokwe named president of Universal TV
Pearlena Igbokwe was named president of Universal Television on Friday, replacing Bela Bajaria. (NBC handout)

NBC drama development head Pearlena Igbokwe has a new high-profile assignment: running the company's Universal Television production studio.

Igbokwe was named studio president on Friday, replacing Bela Bajaria who abruptly stepped down earlier in the week after nearly five years of running the Los Angeles-based unit.

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Bajaria was widely credited with turning a once threadbare operation into a vibrant and talent-friendly studio that boasted such hits as "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," "The Mindy Project," "Master of None," "Bates Motel," and Dick Wolf's popular programs, including "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago Med."

But Bajaria faced criticism internally because so many of Universal Television's high-profile shows were developed for networks and streaming services that compete with the NBC broadcast network.

Igbokwe will report to Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment, in an effort to streamline the organizational structure.

The move suggests that Igbokwe will be tasked with developing shows primarily for NBC because uncovering new hits for the peacock network is a top priority for Salke and her boss, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt.

"Pearlena's remarkable track record in drama programming at NBC over the last few years made it clear that she was the ideal choice to lead the studio into its next phase of growth," Salke said in a statement.

Igbokwe helped shepherd many NBC prime-time programs, including "The Blacklist," "Blindspot" and "Shades of Blue."  She also had a hand in developing several of the network's upcoming series, including "This Is Us," which comes from 20th Century Fox Television and represents one of NBC's big bets for the new fall season.

She joined NBC Entertainment four years ago as executive vice president for drama development after working two decades as a programming executive for Showtime Networks, which is owned by CBS Corp. Greenblatt was in charge of programming at Showtime until 2011, when he joined NBC.

NBCUniversal is owned by cable giant Comcast Corp.

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