Hammer in September 2009
|Born||1950 (age 67–68)|
Boston University School of Education
|Occupation||Chairman, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment|
Kimae Heussner (step-daughter)|
Bonnie Hammer is an American businesswoman and network executive. As Chairman of NBCUniversal Cable, Hammer oversees the leading cable brands USA, The Sci-Fi Channel, E!, Bravo, Oxygen, Esquire Network, Sprout, TV One, Chiller, Cloo, and Universal HD, as well as production entities Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios.
Born to a Jewish family in 1950, Hammer was raised in Queens, New York, the youngest of three children. Hammer’s mother was a full-time mom; her dad, a Russian immigrant, started his own pen company. Intending to become a photojournalist, Hammer enrolled at Boston University College of Communication, earning a bachelor's degree in communications in 1971 and later a master's degree in Media Technology from the Boston University School of Education in 1975.
Hammer began her career in television at WGBH-TV, the public television station in Boston, where she produced This Old House, Infinity Factory and ZOOM for PBS. She later executive-produced Good Day! for Boston's ABC affiliate, WCVB-TV.
Hammer first established herself professionally in New York as an original programming executive at Lifetime Television Network, where she executive produced several award-winning documentaries for the network’s acclaimed Signature Series; she was honored with the Lillian Gish Award, several Cine Golden Eagles and the National Association for Youth's Mentor Award.
In 1989 Hammer joined Universal Television as a programming executive. Here, Hammer partnered with Vince McMahon to transform the WWF franchise into a cultural phenomenon. Hammer also spearheaded the launch of the successful “Sci Fi Prime,” the channel’s first full night of original programming, as well as the “I am Sci-Fi” messaging effort which redefined how viewers related to the channel and its programming.
When Hammer took on the role of Sci-Fi president, she brought to network a mini-series in partnership with Steven Spielberg called, Steven Spielberg Presents: Taken. The project, a twenty-hour miniseries about alien abductions, garnered the best ratings Sci-Fi had seen to date and earned the channel its first major Emmy. During the six years Hammer presided over Sci-Fi, the channel's audience doubled and Sci-Fi ranked in cable's top 10 among adults 25 to 54 and 18 to 49.
In 2004 Universal Television merged with NBC and Hammer became president of USA in addition to Sci-Fi. As she had done at Sci-Fi, Hammer rebranded USA with “Characters Welcome,” – conveying the message that people, and “wacky but memorable characters” were at the heart of the channel’s programming. USA has ranked #1 among cable networks for a record-setting eight years. After her success at Sci-Fi and USA, Hammer was named the most influential woman in cable by CableWorld magazine.
In March 2008, Hammer took leadership at the new studio Universal Cable Productions. At the same time she became head of the digital networks Cloo, Chiller and Universal HD. Adding to the list in 2011, she assumed responsibility for E!, G4 and Wilshire Studios. In July 2012, under the leadership of Hammer, E! unveiled a major brand evolution of the network and relaunch of its market-leading E! Online website, both of which allowed E! to become the global destination for pop culture. In September 2013, she oversaw the launch of Esquire Network, a lifestyle and entertainment network that replaced Style Network (Variety).
Hammer currently serves on the board of the Ad Council, as well as the Celebration of Women’s Achievements in Television and Radio steering committee for the Paley Center for Media. She also serves on the strategic planning committee for Boston University’s College of Communication, and is a mentor for Women in Film & Television.
Her current plans as NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Chairman are to re-evaluate and adapt NBCUniversal channels to become less gender-based as there is a preconceived notion that many of the channels are only for women. Bravo, Hammer says, “is fortysomething, very affluent, female-plus—Franny [Bravo and Oxygen Media president Frances Berwick] hates it when anyone calls it a women’s network. There are lots of guilty-pleasure guys who watch it and a lot of co-viewing as well. E! is smack in the middle. It’s thirtysomething, it’s kind of affluent, but they’re thirtysomethings that are on their way up. There are unmarrieds, marrieds, not-yet-marrieds, employed or employable, a little younger and a little hipper, and that’s their sweet spot.” She also made a controversial decision to have "male" channel, Esquire, take over the Style Network instead of "gamer network", G4, to further the individual style of NBCUniversal's networks and create content that overlaps style content while also reaching male audiences
While at USA Network, Hammer spearheaded the “Erase the Hate” pro-social campaign, which earned a National Emmy Governor’s Award. She later extended it to create “Characters Unite,” a public service program to combat hate and discrimination and promoting tolerance and acceptance. Under Hammer’s leadership, Characters Unite has grown into an award-winning, multi-platform initiative that includes on-air programming such as documentaries and themed episodes of USA series, public service announcements, digital content through the website and social media outlets, and community outreach and high school education programs, featuring a partnership with storytelling group The Moth.
Hammer also created the “Visions for Tomorrow” campaign, which is an effort to spark America’s leading thinkers, organizations, and policymakers into searching for ways to solve society’s most pressing issues.
Hammer has received several awards for her work in the span of her career. She has consistently been named to The Hollywood Reporter's Power 100, an annual list of the most influential women in Hollywood. She was given the National Association of Television Programming Executives’ 2007 Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award and inducted into Broadcasting & Cable’s Hall of Fame the same year. Hammer has also received a MUSE award for outstanding vision and achievement from New York Women in Film & Television. She has been repeatedly featured on lists such as the "50 Most Powerful Women" in Fortune, "The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women" in Forbes, as well as the "Powers that Be" in Vanity Fair. In 2012, Hammers was given the Crystal + Lucy Award for Excellence in Television by Women in Film.
Praise for her social activism includes her 2012 honor by B’nai B’rith for “her commitment to initiatives confronting racism and bigotry’; and she was cited by storytelling organization The Moth for “philanthropic leadership in programs to end prejudice, discrimination and bullying.” Hammer was given the 2010 Vanguard Award for Distinguished Leadership from the National Cable Television Association, and the Anti-Defamation League’s Entertainment Industry Award.
In 2016, Hammer was listed on Vanity Fair's New Establishment List, described as 100 “Silicon Valley hotshots, Hollywood moguls, Wall Street titans, and cultural icons.”
Hammer is an accomplished photographer, and her work has been displayed in galleries and published in Time, the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Los Angeles Times, and various Houghton-Mifflin and Little Brown books. She resides in Westport, Connecticut with her husband, Dale Heussner. Her husband has one child from a previous marriage and they have one child together.
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- BU Alums Named to Vanity Fair’s “New Establishment List”