There hardly has been a high-profile TV programming job over the past decade for which Warner Bros. Television veteran Susan Rovner has not been put on the list of viable candidates. There had been multiple overtures but she had stayed put at the independent studio where for years she has been topper Peter Roth’s designated successor.
This time, it feels different. WBTV President Rovner again was included among the speculated candidates for the NBCU top entertainment programming job immediately after the new NBCU structure was announced. Unlike previous times, Rovner’s name did not quickly drop off the list. She gradually emerged as the leading candidate, and I now hear she has engaged in exit conversations with Warner Bros.
It is unclear what the resolution from the likely-to-be difficult talks would be. Rovner, who is a little over a year into her current contract, factors heavily in the studio’s plans for the future as the heir apparent to Roth, Warner Bros. TV Group President and Chief Content Officer, who has been tipped to succeed him when he is expected to retire at the end of his current contract in late 2021. Rovner leaving would create a gaping hole in those succession plans.
There are precedents in the past of top studio executives who wanted out but had to stay put — Sony Pictures TV did not release then-President Zack Van Amburg out of his contract when he was approached about running TNT and TBS. (The move ended up working out pretty well for Van Amburg given the state of ad-supporting cable network business and his current job co-running Apple’s video content division.)
According to sources, NBCUniversal has not started any formal talks with Rovner, who is still under contract at WBTV, but I hear the company has aggressively pursued her for the job — overseeing all original entertainment programming for NBC, the cable entertainment networks and Peacock — which she is considered highly qualified for.
Rovner and fellow WBTV President Brett Paul who oversees all major dealmaking, jointly have day-to-day management of all scripted TV programming developed and produced by the studio, a total of more than 60 current original series, 60% of them for SVOD platforms/cable networks. Rovner has personally developed or overseen the development of 18 series that have reached the 100-episode milestone.
In the past, a high-profile transfer of a studio executive to a network job would entail multiple on-air commitments for the studio. NBCU and WBTV parent WarnerMedia have had a friendly relationship, with NBCU recently letting WarnerMedia borrow the Harry Potter movies for the launch of their streamer HBO Max.
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