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TV Maverick Vivi Zigler to Retire After 40 Years in Biz

Vivi Zigler was digital before digital was cool.

The Endemol Shine North America executive has also worked in news, marketing, advertising, entertainment programming, consumer products, research, local TV, and local radio. She retires today after a 40-year career that has stretched from San Luis Obispo to 30 Rock, from Hollywood to Silicon Valley.

Zigler chalks up the breadth of her career to “curiosity.” She credits a string of generous mentors for allowing her to zig-zag through a range of disciplines in the industry she fell in love with fresh out of college.

“It’s a bit of wanting to be the conductor rather than playing a specific instrument,” she said.

Zigler has served as president of digital, brand and audience development for Endemol Shine North America since 2015. She joined Endemol Shine in 2012 after a 19-year run at NBC. She worked in marketing and programming for the NBC broadcast network and for Bravo after its acquisition by NBC in 2002. She spent her final years at NBC as president of NBCUniversal Digital Entertainment.

Zigler’s rise through the ranks at NBC made her a role model for many executives during a heady time of M&A and growth for NBC and later NBCUniversal.

“Vivi was a tremendous mentor to me, especially with the transition after NBC’s  acquisition of Bravo,” said Frances Berwick, president of lifestyle networks for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “She really helped me establish relationships and gave me some tough-love style counseling which was invaluable.”

Endemol Shine North America CEO Cris Abrego praised Zigler for her role in shaping the company and her legacy of having “broken down many barriers for women” in the industry.

“Across her remarkable 40-year career, Vivi has continually served as a mentor for those on their way up and for many in leadership roles, as well,” Abrego said. “I know our company has benefitted immensely from her time with us and I have undoubtedly grown both professionally and personally from my experience working alongside her.”  

Zigler got her start, armed with a degree in journalism, as news director for an AM radio station in San Luis Obispo. She had planned to follow in the footsteps of her heroes — Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. But she quickly transitioned to TV after realizing the potential of the medium for storytelling.

“Curiosity about all things took me into news, but then I learned I was curious about a lot of things outside of journalism,” she said. She advanced to station manager of a local station in San Luis Obispo — a rare move for a woman in that era — and then moved up to the Seattle market as director of  marketing and advertising for KING-TV.

Zigler’s career at NBC began in marketing — a perch that gave her great visibility into the network’s operations. She worked under the storied Must-See TV team of John Miller and Vince Manze, and then was dispatched to help rebrand Bravo. She came back to the Peacock to oversee scripted entertainment at the best of then-programming chief Kevin Reilly. The biggest gamble in her tenure at NBC was moving to the nascent digital realm in 2006. The learning curve, she admits, was steep.

“I thought I knew a lot more about digital than I actually did,” she said. “When you’re sitting down with coding engineers and developers of technical products, the work is nothing like you think it is from the outside. I was fortune to have great people who were patient and willing to teach me. I tried to pay that back in translating to the television people what the potential of digital entertainment could be.”

Zigler’s move to Endemol Shine was an opportunity to marshal her disparate skills in a content-focused company that had considerable resources but also a nimbleness that allowed for entrepreneurial efforts. She’s spent the past 18 months years shepherding the launch of Endemol Shine’s syndicated entertainment news strip “Page Six TV,” which has been a kind of full-circle return to her roots in local TV. She and her husband are preparing to retire in the Santa Ynez Valley but she will continue to work as a consultant to Endemol Shine on “Page Six” and other projects.

As she surveys her five-decade run in TV, Zigler cites the 2003 launch of “Queer Eye of the Straight Guy” on Bravo as a major highlight, given the show’s role in setting the template for what Bravo would become. Another incredibly rewarding aspect of her career has been the chance to work with some of the prominent creatives in the industry — namechecking John Wells, Aaron Sorkin, Tim Kring, and Jason Katims.

“Talk about a master class,” she said. “I learned so much from people who brought an incredible level of integrity to their work.”

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