Telemundo taps NBC vet Browne COO

Exec to o'see news, affiliate relations, distrib'n

MIAMI — A year after taking over Spanish-lingo network Telemundo, NBC is more firmly in the driver’s seat.

Donald Browne, prexy and GM of its Miami station, was named chief operating officer of Telemundo on Tuesday, replacing Alan Sokol who ankled the same day.

A longtime Peacock staffer, Browne has been with NBC6/WTVJ in Miami for nearly 10 years and was a vocal proponent of and a key member of the NBC team in the $2.7 billion purchase of Telemundo.

Before WTVJ, he was exec VP of NBC News in New York from 1991 through 1993, and exec news director from 1989-1991. From 1979-89, he was NBC’s Miami bureau chief, directing news coverage of Central and South America.

“Don has tremendous experience in stations and news,” Telemundo prexy and CEO James McNamara said, adding that Browne has a reputation for finding and hiring top on-air, behind-the-scenes and executive talent.

Browne will report to McNamara and will oversee station group and network news, affiliate relations and distribution, research, Telemundo Studios, operations and engineering, and feevee mun2.

According to a copy of an NBC internal memo, Browne is also becoming a member of the NBC Presidents Council.

Sokol had been Telemundo’s COO since 1998. As senior VP of corporate development for Sony Pictures Entertainment, he was the architect of the 1997 purchase of Telemundo for $700 million by SPE, Liberty Media and other investors.

He was kept on after McNamara was brought in in July 1999 and negotiated programming alliances with Globo in Brazil, Caracol in Colombia and Argos in Mexico.

When NBC closed on its acquisition of Telemundo last year, Sokol was asked to stay on. “I did with the intention that it would not be long-term,” he said.

He plans to stay involved in Spanish-lingo TV, but added “I am a strong believer in the English-language side targeting U.S. Hispanics in TV and other media.”

Browne’s appointment is the latest top management change as Telemundo revamps its programming to include more original production. It announced last week at its upfront that it is investing $100 million in original production between now and year-end.

Within a few weeks, McNamara said, Telemundo will announce an exec VP of programming and production, a position vacant since March when Manuel Martinez-Llorian stepped down.

McNamara has already brought in two senior veepees of programming in late December and is adding a third.

Three years ago, the network acquired nearly all of its primetime programming; this year, some 75% of primetime will be original productions.

NBC is also clearly seeking more synergies across its platforms.

Those efforts were already taking place behind the scenes: Browne helped integrate the NBC and Telemundo Miami stations, a process that will be repeated in other duopoly markets.

Last July, Ibra Morales was named president of Telemundo Television Stations, reporting to both McNamara and to Jay Ireland, prexy of NBC TV Stations Division. He will now report to Browne.