When Howard Zalkowitz, 39, was playing Little League in northern New Jersey, Coach McCarthy and Coach Leonard always made sure their players were ready for anything by hammering home the concept of "If... then..."
"That was the first time I heard that," Zalkowitz, now senior producer at Turner Sports, recalls. "And I believe they are the two most important words in the English language. I love being a scenario guy—wondering if divisional series Game 2 gets rained out, how that affects our technical setup for Game 3 and our broadcaster rotation."
Indeed, while Turner Sports Executive Producer Jeff Behnke has all sorts of high praise for Zalkowitz—from his "uncanny knack for understanding every side of the business, production, programming, sales, marketing" to his dry sense of humor—the "If…then…" mantra remains crucial to Zalkowitz. "He's very organized and detailed and he has great foresight," Behnke says. "He's so forward thinking—you give him a task and his mind is working on it before you even complete your thought."
Zalkowitz started at CBS working on the Olympics. That helped shape his other credo—Zalkowitz learned early on to keep the emphasis on storytelling. "I espouse the philosophy that everything has a story with a beginning, middle and end," he says.
But while that Olympic experience made him a strong editor in his 20s, he says he has spent his 30s developing his understanding of technology and how to use it to its best advantage—even if that sometimes means underplaying it, as TBS has shown with its refusal to get too distracted by gimmicks in its expanded baseball coverage. "We stick to the game on the field," Zalkowitz says.
From baseball, he has moved to planning NBA TV, which Turner will begin managing this fall. "That's a challenge on two fronts—there's the digital world, but also from a pure television standpoint this is 24/7/365, which requires different fundamentals than a big event," he says. "You can take some technological and creative leaps." —Stuart Miller