NATPE: Highlights From the 14th Annual Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards

Recipients take turns paying tribute to the NBC pioneer

MIAMI—Because the Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards are not televised, because they are held toward the end of NATPE when everyone in the high-wattage room is ready to unwind, and because of the man for whom they are named, the night tends to have both a loose and heartfelt energy.

Wednesday night’s 14th edition of the honors proved no exception. Here are some highlights from the acceptance speeches:

Univision chief Randy Falco, following a stirring introduction from longtime former NBC colleague Dick Ebersol, said the Tartikoff “means more to me than any other award I’ve gotten.” He noted his teaming with Ebersol in securing long-term rights to the Olympics beginning in the 1990s, something previously never attempted. “When you take on such a challenge of global scale,” he said, “you quickly see the importance of collaboration, something I talk to my team about constantly.”

Susanne Daniels, head of original content at YouTube, noted working with Tartikoff three times during her career. She saluted Tartikoff’s vision, which was emphasized in a video that played before her speech, which noted his predictions of the streaming video world we now inhabit. “He would have been inspired by a democratic platform that enables anyone to have a voice,” she said.

AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan had more teleprompter battles than Jimmy Fallon at the Golden Globes, leading to an amusingly discursive few minutes onstage. “My wife’s not here, my ungrateful kids are nowhere to be seen,” he cracked. “My daughter called me and asked, ‘Are you doing that thing?’ That was as dear as it got.”

Eva Longoria nodded to her presenter, Endemol Shine North America CEO Cris Abrego. “Cris is the only thing standing in the way of my becoming the most powerful Mexican in Hollywood,” she said, adding dryly, “Because there are only two of us.” Turning more serious, she discussed her plunge into directing and producing, a move designed to increase both her own level of control in creative decisions and also representation of Latinas working in entertainment.

Showrunner Steve Levitan delivered the roast-iest introduction of the night, drawing big laughs in bringing Fox network and studio chiefs Dana Walden and Gary Newman to the stage. The Modern Family creator read from a printout of a scripted email exchange among the honorees and Fox PR honcho Chris Alexander.

“That is why we pay him the big bucks,” Walden said of the riff, which included a zinger about her slender physique. She then produced what she said was “a real email,” in which Levitan wrote, “I would genuinely love to do it, but only if you fly me private.” She went on to describe how Tartikoff's artist-friendly approach has informed her run at Fox. Newman offered a similar tribute, which resonated at the end of a night full of testimony to the mark Tartikoff left. "Brandon really embodied what you want out of a leader," Newman said. "He was inspirational and wildly charismatic."