Don Ohlmeyer was a skilled producer, a savvy programmer, a demanding boss and a commanding presence.
The former NBC West Coast president, who died Sept. 10 at age 72, came to the Peacock in 1993, tasked with righting the ship that had run off course after the Brandon Tartikoff era.
During his tenure, which ran through 1999, Ohlmeyer galvanized a team of future star executives who have since fanned out across the industry.
“Don was a complicated, fascinating and brilliant man who taught me an enormous amount about how television really works on its audience and how to be a leader,” said David Nevins, president and CEO of Showtime Networks.
Nevins’ colleagues from the Ohlmeyer years include John Landgraf, president-CEO of FX Networks; Kevin Reilly, president of TNT and TBS; Jamie Tarses, former ABC Entertainment president; and Karey Burke, exec VP of programming and development at Freeform.
Ohlmeyer was a natural leader, thanks to his years as a producer of live sports and TV movies, not to mention his linebacker build.
“He instilled both respect and fear in a lot of people,” recalled Preston Beckman, who headed scheduling under him. “After I survived seven years of working with Don, I knew I could never be afraid of anyone in the business.”
Ohlmeyer was tough but also unfailingly loyal.
“He wanted you to stick your neck out for what you believed in,” said Burke. “And he would have your back whether you were right or wrong — as long as you put your passion on the line.”