Steve MacDonald, Executive VP, General Sales Manager, Basic Cable for Twentieth Television
Persistence pays off through a career in media sales
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/27/2011 12:01:00 AMClick here to read more Next Wave of Leaders
Persuasiveness comes naturally to Steve MacDonald, Twentieth Television’s executive VP and general sales manager of basic cable. He recently completed two big cable deals, selling Modern Family to USA and Glee to Oxygen.
MacDonald decided early that he wanted to work in media, securing a college internship for himself at a radio station. Then he learned that the boyfriend of his best friend’s sister, and his cousin, were selling advertising at a TV and a radio station, respectively.
“I sat down with them and I was so enamored with how much fun their work seemed to be and how it could change somebody’s business,” MacDonald says.
After attending New Hampshire College, MacDonald began working in media, first selling ads for WROR and WMJX in Boston. He made his way to New York, working for Interep’s Torbet Radio. After being promoted to northwest division regional manager and moving to San Francisco, he became general sales manager at San Francisco’s KABL.
He loved radio, but he had his eye on TV. While running to make a " ight back home to San Francisco, he literally crashed into a tall blond man. After the initial shock (and pain) wore off, the two got to talking. MacDonald made an impression on the man—Greg Meidel, the head of Twentieth Television at the time— who told the up-and-comer to call him the next time he was in Los Angeles.
That wasn’t enough for MacDonald, who promptly tipped the desk clerk at Meidel’s hotel to give him the man’s room number so he could send him a card. He also found Meidel at dinner and secretly paid for his meal.
“That dinner cost me more than $900,” says Mac- Donald. It took two more years of sending cards, calling and visiting before MacDonald landed his job at Twentieth in 1995.
Since then, he has carved out his niche at the syndicator. “My first big deal was selling Cops to Court TV. It probably took the better part of two years to convince them that Cops was the show to help drive their future.” Over a decade later, Cops is still on truTV.
Doing those kinds of deals secured MacDonald’s place as head of cable at Twentieth. While Meidel left Twentieth to run Universal six months after MacDonald arrived, he returned in August 2009. This time around, MacDonald is one of Meidel’s right-hand men.
“I always wished I had the opportunity to learn under his tutelage,” says MacDonald. “Now it’s come full circle and I couldn’t be happier.”
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