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Miami’s Browne in as Telemundo COO

May 26, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Over the course of his 24 years with NBC, the newly named chief operating officer of NBC-owned Telemundo, Don Browne, has become known for thinking outside entrenched boxes.
“Everybody’s told me all along, `You can’t do this. You can’t do that,”’ he said. “I would say: `I ran around Central and South America covering wars and getting shot at. I think I can survive this.”’
Mr. Browne is moving up to the post of Telemundo COO from Miami-area NBC owned-and-operated station WTVJ-TV, where he was general manager. He’s replacing Alan Sokol, who is leaving the company.
Mr. Browne has done more than survive the assignments that were part of being Miami bureau chief for NBC News from 1979 to 1989-and those that came with being an NBC News executive during the turbulent early 1990s. That’s when he helped extend Today into a weekend franchise, founded the NBC News Channel as an affiliate-network partnership, and launched Dateline NBC to clean up after NBC’s first-ever successful prime-time magazine was badly dinged by a flawed GM truck-safety story.
In 1993, he returned to Miami as general manager of WTVJ, which he has steered through scary channel swaps and hurricanes, and which he has built into a state-of-the-art model for digitized hubbing. (Three Southern NBC O&Os channel a number of backend operations through WTVJ).
Both WTVJ and Telemundo’s WCSV-TV are housed in the spiffy 75,000-square-foot station headquarters unveiled nearly two years ago in Miramar, Fla., by Mr. Browne.
Not for the first time, he was leading the way. Similar integration of NBC and Telemundo station operations is under way in Burbank, Calif., and is soon to start in Chicago.
Known as “Mr. Miami” because of his knowledge of and involvement in the diverse three-county market, he urged NBC for years to get into Spanish-language television.
Telemundo, which NBC acquired in 2002, “is a great investment” and his new role positions him to help make sure it pays off sooner rather than later, he said. Mr. Browne’s history has shown he can negotiate all the dotted lines of reporting involved with dealing across multiple platforms and integrating different corporate cultures.
“This could be the coolest job of all,” Mr. Browne said.
He will report to Telemundo CEO James McNamara and will oversee the 15 Telemundo-owned stations, affiliate relations and distribution, network news, research, Telemundo Studios operations and engineering, and Telemundo’s English-language cable network, mun2.
Mr. Browne also will join Mr. McNamara on the Presidents Council, the exclusive group of NBC family senior executives who advise NBC Chairman Bob Wright on strategy. That Mr. Browne knows most members of the council well will make him a natural “bridge” between Telemundo and NBC.
“I know what the principles are. I know some of the players. I know the marketplace very well,” he said.
Mr. Browne’s successor as general manager of WTVJ-TV is expected to be named in several weeks.
Mr. Browne’s predecessor at Telemundo, Mr. Sokol, structured the deal for Sony and Liberty Media to buy Telemundo for $750 million in 1997. He helped grow Telemundo into a sprawling organization that was worth $2.7 billion to NBC in 2001.
“I am working on some things I’m pretty excited about,” Mr. Sokol said. But he wasn’t ready to talk about them.
The former Savoy Pictures and Sony executive said he is proud of what he helped accomplish at Telemundo since 1997. “It was a company that had been beaten down, demoralized and stripped of resources. It lagged so far behind, there was really only one direction we could take it.”
“It took us a while to get our sea legs” during the integration of NBC and Telemundo, Mr. Sokol said. But he added, “I feel really good that the vision we had five years ago has been achieved.”