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Lisa Ellzey

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A titan in the world of television with a backstory that reflects the power of the American Dream itself, television executive Bonnie Hammer was raised in Queens, NY. Hammer's mother was a full time mom, while her father, a Russian immigrant, built his own business manufacturing pens in nearby Brooklyn. Hammer's early exposure to the world of entertainment came in the modest form of voice and piano lessons and monthly trips to Manhattan with her family to see plays on Broadway. By the time Hammer was graduating from Boston University in 1971 with a degree in Communications, she had set her sights on a career in photojournalism. Though her interest in seeing the world through a camera lens would evolve over the next few years, Hammer saw her photographs published in Time, the Boston Herald, and the Los Angeles Times. However, after she earned her Masters degree in Media Technologies and entered the workforce in 1974, Hammer was drawn to the realm of TV, beginning with a low level job as a production assistant at the local PBS affiliate, WGBH Boston. Each of the assistants at WGBH were assigned a cast member to care for, and as the youngest and least experienced PA at the station, Hammer was assigned...

A titan in the world of television with a backstory that reflects the power of the American Dream itself, television executive Bonnie Hammer was raised in Queens, NY. Hammer's mother was a full time mom, while her father, a Russian immigrant, built his own business manufacturing pens in nearby Brooklyn. Hammer's early exposure to the world of entertainment came in the modest form of voice and piano lessons and monthly trips to Manhattan with her family to see plays on Broadway. By the time Hammer was graduating from Boston University in 1971 with a degree in Communications, she had set her sights on a career in photojournalism. Though her interest in seeing the world through a camera lens would evolve over the next few years, Hammer saw her photographs published in Time, the Boston Herald, and the Los Angeles Times. However, after she earned her Masters degree in Media Technologies and entered the workforce in 1974, Hammer was drawn to the realm of TV, beginning with a low level job as a production assistant at the local PBS affiliate, WGBH Boston. Each of the assistants at WGBH were assigned a cast member to care for, and as the youngest and least experienced PA at the station, Hammer was assigned to a sheepdog. Hammer's ascent through the ranks of television would find her helping bring several socially progressive documentaries to the cable network Lifetime and eventually taking a programming position at the USA network. It was there that in 1989, she was tasked with revamping the World Wrestling Federation's programs, bringing her skill on board to create more well structured drama to the wrestling show's storylines. Her changes made the WWF's series incredibly successful. She would go on to revamp other properties as well after the birth of her son Jesse with her husband, management consultant Dale Heussner, in 1993, becoming the president of SyFy (then called Sci-Fi Channel) in 2001. At SyFy, Hammer spearheaded the production of original content, wrangling $40 million for the Steven Spielberg produced mini-series "Taken" (Sci-Fi Channel, 2002). Several execs balked at the show's hefty price tag, but Hammer was emboldened, especially after she sent a sample episode to USA owner Barry Diller, who told her that if the entire series was this compelling, Hammer would have a major hit on her hands. The acclaimed show helped open up the network's fanbase, bringing SyFy's network ranking from the high 20s to the top ten. Quickly becoming the go-to exec for bold network redesigns, Hammer next returned to USA in 2004, this time as president. There, she commissioned a brand audit and discovered that perceptions of USA were unflattering. She set into motion a plan to change several aspects of the channel's public face, redesigning the network's logo and greenlighting original series like "Burn Notice" (USA, 2007-2013) and "Royal Pains" (USA, 2009-). On her watch, Hammer made USA drastically more profitable as it soared to a spot as the No. 1 ranked cable network for five consecutive years. In February of 2013, Hammer was promoted to chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, overseeing several networks which accounted for roughly 50% of NBCUniversal's operating cashflow.

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