A Nigerian woman of Igbo descent, Pearlena Igbokwe, has been named the Chairman, of Universal Studio Group, a division of NBC Universal which encompasses Universal Television, Universal Content Productions (UCP) & NBC Universal International Studios and will report directly to NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell.
Igbokwe will be the first woman to run a global TV studio. She replaces Bonnie Hammer, a longtime cable-TV executive who will take on an advisory role at the company.
Pearlena was born in Lagos and lived through the Biafran- Nigerian war before she left Nigeria to the United States at the age of 6 years.
She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and an MBA from Columbia. Pearlena is a mother of two children and she lives with her family in California.
Before Igbokwe’s emergence as Chairman, she was the president of Universal Television From June 2016 to September 2020, where she oversaw creative development, casting, and production for one of the country’s largest and most successful studios. She led the division to new heights with record volume, commercial success, and critical acclaim.
Some of her programming highlights include Russian Doll, The Good Place, New Amsterdam, The Bold Type, Good Girls, and Dick Wolf’s successful new franchise, FBI and FBI: Most Wanted, among numerous other notable projects. In a highly competitive landscape, Igbokwe was able to secure pickups for her projects on every major streaming service, a variety of premium cable outlets, and every broadcast network.
Before her studio role, Igbokwe served as Executive Vice President, Drama Programming, for NBC Entertainment, where she developed the top-rated new broadcast dramas for three out of her four years in the role (Blacklist, Blindspot and This Is Us). She joined NBC Entertainment in 2012 as executive vice president for drama development.
Igbokwe worked at Showtime for 20 years where she was involved in developing the pilot and overseeing the first five seasons of Dexter, Showtime’s most popular series ever. She also developed the pilot for Masters of S*x, starring Michael Sheen, and supervised the Emmy Award-winning and critically acclaimed original series Nurse Jackie. In addition, she shepherded Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union, Damon Wayans’ The Underground, Kirstie Alley’s Fat Actress, and the television adaptation of the hit feature film Barbershop. She was also instrumental in the five-season run of the hit Showtime series Soul Food, a two-time NAACP Image Award winner for Best Drama Series.
Igbokwe has mined success from a number of original movies she developed for Showtime, including the Humanitas Award-nominated Jasper, Texas, starring Academy Award winners Jon Voight and Louis Gossett Jr.; the Emmy-nominated Bojangles, starring the late Gregory Hines; and the Peabody Award-winning Strange Justice.
She began her Showtime career as Manager of Direct Response, Television Marketing, and earlier worked as an Associate at NBC in New York City.
Universal Television LLC is an American television production company that is a subsidiary of NBCUniversal Content Studios, a division of Comcast’s NBCUniversal. A substantial portion of the company’s shows air on NBC, making the company its de facto television production division.