In 1987, when Nick at Nite needed a manager of acquisitions, it decided to have a little fun. Nickelodeon's fledgling network launched an "I Wanna Be Manager of Acquisitions" contest, urging viewers to send in their résumés. It was a TV fan's dream come true: "Imagine having to watch TV all day for a living," said the contest's promotion.
Naturally, Diane Robina applied. An avid Nick at Nite enthusiast and news and television buff, she thought she was perfect for the job.
Nick at Nite thought so, too, and Robina, who was then working for Group W Cable in northern Manhattan, won the contest.
Since her arrival at Nick at Nite, Robina's passion for the medium has not gone unnoticed. In her 13 years with Nick at Nite and later with co-owned TV Land, she has been involved in many key programming decisions.
"First and foremost, I am a programmer. I love television," says Robina. She brought television classics I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Cheers, among others, to Nick at Nite.
Because she's a tough negotiator, Robina was chosen in 1996 to help launch Nick at Nite's TV Land. A year later, she became senior vice president of programming for Nick at Nite/TV Land. Robina is proud of her record with TV Land, which includes such vintage shows as The Andy Griffith Show, Honeymooners, Gunsmoke, Dragnet, Adam 12 and Leave It to Beaver.
She attributes much of her success to the fact that she "really understands her audience": "I am the audience; I am a big retro-TV watcher." Robina and her two daughters tune in regularly to Nick at Nite's Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch and Facts of Life.
"Diane is a good strategic thinker. She knows what's going on in the marketplace," says boss Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon, TV Land and TNN: The National Network (all three are part of Viacom's MTV Networks). Therefore, last fall, when MTV was ready to relaunch TNN (The Nashville Network), Robina was chosen to help. She was appointed executive vice president and general manager of TNN: The National Network last September.
She is eagerly implementing the company's strategy of repositioning TNN as a network devoted to featuring the best in pop culture. "Diane knows the world of pop. She can sit in a room and talk about why Pam Anderson is popular and why the WWF is popular and everything in between," says Scannell. "She's that kind of person, whose interests are that broad."
Part of the network's transformation includes TNN's acquisition of the WWF's Raw Is War and shows such as Miami Vice, Rockford Files and Martial Law. Viewers appear to like the new TNN. Its Nielsen numbers for prime time are up 53% for the first quarter this year.
Robina plans to introduce an even stronger schedule for the future. She was instrumental in acquiring such shows for this fall as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek Voyager. Baywatch also is slated to debut this fall. And CSI: Crime Scene Investigations and V.I.P. will air in fall 2002. Moreover, the net is offering five original series, beginning this summer.
Robina has come a long way since 1983, when she began as a camera operator for CNN's New York bureau. "One of the greatest joys of my career is watching Diane grow through the ranks and develop into the strong and generous businesswoman that she's become," says Anne Sweeney, president, ABC Cable Networks Group. It was Sweeney who, during her tenure at Nickelodeon, was responsible for hiring Robina at the Nick at Nite.
Sweeney, like others in the industry, recognizes that Robina's devotion to television is what helps make her a tremendous programmer. Robina is also a die-hard New York Mets fan. She never misses opening day. And like the Mets, says Sweeney, she never gives up.