Exclusive: NBCU International Studios COO to exit

NBCUniversal International Studio’s (NBCUIS) chief operating officer Sarah Cooper is to step down from her position, TBI can reveal.

Cooper (pictured) joined the UK-based production division of NBCU in 2013 with a far-reaching remit that included working with then NBCUIS president Michael Edelstein to drive value from its shows, which include period drama Downton Abbey, reality series Made in Chelsea, and scripted series Hanna for Amazon.

She was tasked with making the NBCU division more attractive for producers working outside of the US and had oversight of NBCUI’s business affairs, as well as responsibility for licensing and format sales, HR and finance. It is understood her position will not be replaced, although she will remain with the company over the next few months during the transition process.

Her departure comes 18 months after the exit of Edelstein, who was replaced by NBCU Cable Entertainment’s chief content officer Jeff Wachtel in 2018, who relocated to London to take up the role.

Sarah Cooper

Cooper, who reported into Wachtel after Edelstein’s exit, joined the Comcast-owned company six years ago after leaving BBC Studios (formerly known as BBC Worldwide), where she had held roles including chief operating officer and deputy CEO.

NBCUIS houses its own in-house scripted division based in LA and the UK, which is behind Amazon’s Hanna, while the company is also co-producing The Capture for BBC One with Heyday.

The division is also home to Downton Abbey prodco Carnival Films, Made in Chelsea firm Monkey Kingdom and Australia’s Matchbox Pictures, as well as Working Title Television. NBCUIS also has a stake in Canada’s Lark Productions, and operates joint ventures with Tom Hardy’s prodco Hardy Son & Baker and David Heyman’s Heyday TV.

Cooper’s exit follows NBCUI parent Comcast’s $40bn acquisition of UK pay-TV operator Sky last year, which has seen the London-based division substantially restructure its operations.

Sky Vision is being rolled into NBCUniversal Global Distribution, under president & chief revenue officer Belinda Menendez, while the boss of the pay-TV operator’s sales arm, Jane Millichip, has taken the new role of chief commercial officer for newly formed Sky Studios. It houses companies including Bake Off prodco Love Productions and Sugar Films, which were formerly part of Sky Vision.

NBCUI’s UK pay-TV networks, such as Syfy and E!, and their staff have been moved into Sky’s pay-TV headquarters in Osterley in the UK, while Sky Deutschland has become parent to NBCU’s networks in Germany.

Further changes have been made to the structure of NBCU channels across EMEA, with the departure of Leonor Grandsire.

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