Jeff Bader, one of ABC's most respected programming executives, is leaving his professional home of 24 years to join NBC.
Late Wednesday, NBC shocked industry observers by naming Bader to a newly created role of president of program planning, strategy and research for NBC Entertainment. NBC executives had aggressively recruited Bader to become a prime architect of NBC's programming strategy for prime-time, daytime and late-night blocks.
NBC, which has been struggling to lift itself out of the prime-time ratings cellar, faces an array of challenges and has several big programming holes to fill.
The decision to leave his longtime home was a difficult one, Bader said. He was a trusted lieutenant during numerous ABC regimes, and survived several tumultuous management shake-ups.
He will take charge of NBC's scheduling department and research team, and of the company's strategy for prime-time and late-night programming across NBCUniversal platforms -- an increasingly important role as networks embrace digital distribution.
Bader also will serve as a liaison with NBC News and NBC Sports, working closely with the network's East Coast division, managed by NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert, with whom Bader worked during the 1990s when Harbert was at ABC. (Harbert spent the first 20 years of his career at ABC.)
NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt said Bader would help with "the rebuilding of NBC."
"He has deep experience in so many key areas of running a network in today's challenging environment that he will instantly prove to be invaluable to us as we look to the future," Greenblatt said in a statement. Bader will report to Greenblatt.
For more than two decades, Bader quietly worked his way up the ladder at the network owned by Walt Disney Co. He was most recently ABC's executive vice president of planning, scheduling and distribution.
"It's a great opportunity for Jeff, and we wish him well," an ABC spokesperson said Wednesday.