The president of NBCUniversal's Telemundo network is stepping down, clearing the way for the company to make sweeping changes to its Spanish-language media operation.
NBCUniversal said Tuesday that Don Browne, Telemundo's leader for six years, will retire from the company June 3 — the eighth anniversary of his arrival at Telemundo. The company plans to name a new Telemundo president within a few months.
Browne, who turns 68 next month, becomes the latest high-level veteran to leave in the wake of Comcast Corp.'s takeover of NBCUniversal. This week NBCUniversal Chief Diversity Officer Paula Madison — and former longtime general manager of KNBC-TV Channel 4 in Los Angeles — announced she was retiring after 22 years to focus on her family-owned investment business.
Browne has been with NBC for 32 years, spending most of his career with NBC News. As the architect of Telemundo's entry into the business of original programming, Browne wanted to end the network's reliance on foreign studios for its prime-time shows. He oversaw the building of a 30,000-square-foot TV production center in Miami. In recent months, the network has seen its investment begin to pay dividends. It has increased its ratings on the strength of its latest original soap opera, or telenovela, "La Reina del Sur."
Telemundo has quickly become one of the world's largest providers of Spanish-language programming. However, despite investing hundreds of millions of dollars in original productions over the years, the NBCUniversal-owned network has struggled to make headway in the U.S. Spanish-language television market. It is dwarfed by its more potent rival, Univision Communications Inc., which obtains most of its popular prime-time telenovelas from its Mexican programming partner, Grupo Televisa.
When Comcast took control of NBCUniversal in January, Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts and NBCUniversal's new chief, Steve Burke, said they saw opportunities at Telemundo. They want the Spanish-language operation to produce more revenue for the company.
As part of a management restructuring, Browne was assigned a new supervisor, Lauren Zalaznick, who was determined to be more hands-on. She is taking Spanish lessons and has spent days immersing herself in Telemundo's South Florida and Los Angeles operations.
Since 2005, Browne has been responsible for all of Telemundo's businesses, including its 14 television stations, which include KVEA-TV Channel 52 in L.A. NBCUniversal in a statement credited Browne for being "an early and fervent supporter" of Spanish-language television and for playing a key role in the company's $2-billion acquisition of Telemundo in 2001.
"The success of 'La Reina del Sur' is a glimpse and validation of the paradigm shift in U.S. Spanish-language television and the move toward original production," said longtime Latino media consultant Julio Rumbaut.