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
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.”