NBCUniversal’s Susan Rovner talks with Brunswick’s Morgan Snyder about building diversity in content and leadership.
In 2020, NBCUniversal reorganized its television and streaming to create a more unified strategy across its platforms. A keystone of its new structure was naming Susan Rovner as Chairman, Entertainment Content, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, where she leads creative strategy for original entertainment content across NBCU’s broadcast, cable and streaming platforms. Those include NBC, Bravo, E!, Oxygen, Syfy, Universal Kids, USA and Peacock.
At the same time that Rovner was appointed, Frances Berwick was named NBCUniversal’s Chairman of Entertainment Networks. Together, these moves signaled a deliberate emphasis on gender equality in leadership. As Forbes noted, “for the first time in NBC’s nearly 100-year history, two women are at the network’s helm.”
We spoke with Rovner about her work overseeing content teams, which has included the Emmy-nominated “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” the hit teen dramas, “Riverdale” and “Supergirl,” and many others. Prior to joining NBCU, Rovner was President of Warner Bros. Television where, for more than 20 years, she was instrumental in the company’s expansion into on-demand and streaming services, among other responsibilities. Before WBTV, Rovner was Executive Director, Movies for Television,
In our interview, she talked about the role of equality and diversity in leadership and storytelling, the shows that she oversaw that meant the most to her, and about the desire “to learn something new every day” that defines her approach to the role of Chairman.
You’ve talked in interviews about the importance of making one’s ambitions known. How can that be done without coming across as entitled? How do you think people can best advocate for themselves in the workforce?
There is nothing entitled with letting people know what your ultimate ambitions are. Entitled would be not putting in the work to get there—expecting that your ambitions will simply happen because you have voiced them. I often hear the word “ambitious” used against women—and it has been used against me in the past. I have never heard the word “ambitious” used against a man.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being ambitious. What could be negative about wanting to succeed in your profession? I think it is important that women take back this word and own it. I am absolutely ambitious. I have always worked incredibly hard to succeed, and I’m proud of it. Advocate for yourself by letting your intentions and ambitions be known but always put in the work to get there.
Does your appointment to this position, as one of the two women in charge of content at NBC, feel historic to you? Does that distinction, in your mind, come with any obligation?
Having two women leading not only NBC but all of NBCUniversal’s platforms is something I am incredibly proud of. It is definitely historic and important. I hope this glass ceiling is forever broken and the door is now open for many more women in the future. The obligation I feel is to be great at my job, but that has nothing to do with being the first woman in it. Being great at my job is why I was hired and what my responsibility is to the company and to myself.