Because he was so far in front of his television peers, it’s hard to believe that it has been 16 long years since Brandon Tartikoff worked at NBC and more than a quarter century since he began there as the network’s president of entertainment.
Maybe it seems like less time because what Tartikoff set in motion transformed NBC from the doormat of the industry in 1980, when he got the job, to the most powerful broadcast network in the business when he left in 1991. (Tragically, Tartikoff died in August 1997 from Hodgkin’s disease, when he was just 48.)
He didn’t just change NBC. He changed television, and in the process left behind hundreds of friends who he helped with his ideas, his creativity, his sense of humor and—sometimes a rarity in this business—his decency. Along the way, he helped nurture a cadre of television producers and executives who learned from him and taught others.
The Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards are chosen annually by the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) and the editors of Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and Variety. The awards recognize the power of innovation in television.
NATPE President/CEO Rick Feldman explained it best when speaking of why producer Stephen J. Cannell is receiving an award this year: “We look to honor independent thinkers, people who sometimes buck the system as need be, maybe zigging when other people are zagging.”