The Universal Studio Group has appointed Pearlena Igbokwe as the Chairperson of Global TV Studios. She is taking over the TV leadership role from Bonnie Hammer as part of NBCUniversal’s effort to reshuffle its leadership.
Igbokwe will be in charge of the company’s global television studio business, including Universal Television, Universal Content Productions (UCP) and NBCUniversal International Studios and will report directly to NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell.
She joined NBC Entertainment in 2012 as executive vice president after working for 20 years as a programming executive for CBS Corp.’s Showtime Network, and has since then served in other capacities. Igbokwe became the vice president of the Hollywood Radio and TV Society board and a member of the Television Academy Executive Committee. She became the president of Universal Television in 2016 after working on drama series such as ‘The Blacklist’ and ‘This Is Us.’
Igbokwe has a history of success in her different positions at NBC, which set her up for the new leadership role.
“She has a long track record of success and is the ideal person to take the helm of the studio group,” said Hammer.
The emergence of streaming services is forcing Shell to rethink its business model. The company is looking to streamline its operations in line with current trends that include streaming, and believes Pearlena has the expertise to drive their new vehicle.
“Our television studios are key growth engines for the company, and Pearlena is ideally suited to lead them. She has extraordinary taste and is well-respected within NBC,” Shell said in a statement.
The company said the shakeup in NBC means Dawn Olmstead, president of UCP and Jeff Wachtel, president of NBCUniversal International Studios will report directly to Igbokwe.
Pearlena left Nigeria with her parents for the United States at six, that’s in 1971, fleeing the ravages of 30 months of civil war that offered an uncertain future for children in then Eastern Nigeria. She started her early education in New Jersey where her parents settled, and went on to become a Yale English major.
Her journey to NBC started in 1985, following the end of her sophomore year at the Ivy League college. Igbokwe was desperate to get a summer job and was at Yale’s career service center searching the job notice fliers on the walls for openings. When she saw a “summer associate” position at NBC New York notice, she knew it was what she needed, though she didn’t know it would take her this far.
It has been over 30 years in the studios creating and organizing amazing TV works, and fortune still has more in store for her.
The undergrad summer job with NBC lasted for two years and opened the doors to the entertainment industry for her.
“It just opened up everything for me. That feeling of loving TV and movies for all those years and now being even remotely attached to that world just felt incredible,” Igbokwe said.
But Igbokwe’s work-life has not all been in the entertainment industry. After college, she had to jostle through her career in different fields to earn a living and live up to some financial responsibilities, including paying off some student loans. She worked in the financial services industry and in business school at Columbia University.
After earning her college degree, she got a temporary job at HBO, but it wasn’t long before she got entry-level post offers at HBO and Showtime. She chose Showtime, a decision she would be executing in the next 20 years in Los Angeles and New York with the programming team.
But in 2012, when Robert Greenblatt, former Showtime chief who switched to NBC made her an offer to join NBC as head of drama development, she jumped at it. “I felt like NBC was where I started, I knew I would love to be here,” she said.