Jenna Bush Hager inks first look deal with Universal Studio Group

By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links

“Today with Hoda and Jenna” co-anchor Jenna Bush Hager has signed a first look deal with Universal Studio Group.

USG is part of NBCUniversal, which also owns NBC.

The deal calls for Hager to develop projects for Universal Content Productions, Universal Television, Universal Television Alternative Studio and Universal International Studios.

The deal will mean USG will be able to see proposals for new projects from Hager, with the option to buy the production before other networks or outlets are informed about it. In many ways it’s similar to a “right of first refusal” agreement.

USG could opt to pass on the project, which, depending on the terms of the deal and the viability of the proposal, means it could be sold to another outlet.

Given USG’s large size, Hager’s productions could appear on a wide variety of platforms, including linear TV, digital, podcasts and streaming. The announcement did not specifically mention any of NBCUniversal’s film divisions.

Hager first joined NBC in 2009 as a correspondent and eventually began appearing more and more regularly on “Today.” She became a regular fill in for the fourth hour of “Today,” then known as “Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda,” before being promoted to the co-anchor chair when former host Kathie Lee Gifford departed.

Hager, who is the daughter for former president George W. Bush and granddaughter or former president George H.W. Bush, is the creator of a TV book club called “#ReadWithJenna.”

The club launched in 2019 and has played a key role in boosting book sales, including sending 30 titles to the The New York Times bestseller list something Oprah Winfrey’s book club was also frequently credited with.

Hager’s mother, former First Lady Laura Bush, worked as a librarian.

Hager has also written six books, including some with her mother and one with her twin sister Barbara Pierce Bush (not to be confused with the late former first lady married to the late elder Bush).

While what types of programming Hager will develop remains up in the air, USG’s statement about the deal notes her love of books and success of the book club,” signaling that the projects could be centered around books and reading.

NBCUniversal, like most broadcast and media companies, are eager to find original content as they build out more platforms, namely streaming. Inking deals with current talent or production teams can be an ideal in that there’s already an established relationship and familiarity with the developers.

In the case of on air talent like Hager, it also provides cross promotional opportunities to help get new programming and ventures off the ground.

Most recently ABC News signed a deal with George Stephanopoulos to help him launch his own production company.

The deal was reportedly part of a compromise that involved Stephanopoulos giving up the title of “chief anchor” at the network, meaning he would no longer be the first choice to helm special reports and coverage of major events. That role went to “ABC World News Tonight” anchor David Muir.

ABC had a somewhat unusual deal from 2014 with Muir and Stephanopoulos that elevated Muir to “WNT” but gave Stephanopoulos the chief anchor role in addition to his co-anchor spot on “Good Morning America.” That deal was widely reported to be a way to keep both men from jumping ship.

In many respects, Stephanopoulos was next in line for the “WNT” anchor desk, but execs also were reportedly interested in having the younger Muir take over while also being hesitant to shake up talent at “GMA,” which, at the time, was inching closer to overtaking perennial morning leader “Today” in the ratings.