NBCUniversal San Diego’s VP of Technology and Operations since 2008, Dave MacKinnon announced recently he’s leaving the station on September 1, 2020. I asked Dave about his years at the station and his goals.
Q: You were hired to lead the Engineering Department at KNSD though you had come from a non-broadcast background, right? That speaks highly of your impressing the hiring staff. What had you done before taking that job?
A: I worked for the Dept of Defense. This was my first job in TV. I had to learn a lot very quickly, but I was helped by an amazing team at KNSD, an industry changing to look more like IT, and similarities between broadcast and DoD standards.
Q: As I remember, KNSD studios and control room at that time were still downtown and most of the technical equipment was inside an old bank vault. The news studio was on the street, like the Today Show studio in New York. When was that? Tell us about working downtown.
A: Working downtown was great but it took its toll on us. The station moved down there in the early 2000s. But we couldn’t expand or change, the surrounding area was getting pretty rough, and the costs were significantly higher than going back to Kearny Mesa. We moved back to Kearny Mesa in 2016.
Q: You led the effort to move KNSD to Granite Ridge Drive. What was that project like for you?
A: Moving the station was a fun, but challenging project. I learned a lot about construction, which was really enjoyable and led to a few more construction projects for me within NBCU.
Q: After the KNSD move, you helped other stations with their facilities. Tell us about that.
A: After the KNSD build I was looking for a new challenge and the NBCU Owned Televisions Stations Division needed help with the stand-alone Telemundo stations. It was a great opportunity. I was able to hire and train tech leaders in each market and then help them execute some major projects. We built a station in Las Vegas, rebuilt Phoenix, and moved Fresno. I also was able to participate in the acquisition of the Serestar stations (Salt Lake City and Sacramento) which was an amazing experience. I really was able to bridge the technology and finance divide with these stations and get them operating effectively and efficiently. It was a lot of fun and I’ll really miss the Telemundo team.
Q: A lot of TV station groups now pool their resources, like news graphics being done at one of the affiliates, and master control automation being controlled from another. How does this work for the NBCUniversal stations like KNSD now? How do you feel about this personally?
A: I think NBCU was one of the first to do this in the 90s and 00s with master control and graphics. It really depends on the station and what you’re centralizing. I’ve seen it work really well as long as you keep costs down and don’t sacrifice too much quality. NBCU has a hub in Denver for all the O&Os, but we also built a small “mini-hub” in Sacramento to support SLC and Fresno given their small cost-base and relatively simple master-control needs.
Q: Why are you leaving KNSD now?
A: I need a new challenge. I want to constantly be learning. KNSD/KUAN are in good hands and I’m confident the team there will do a great job.
Q: What do you want to do next?
A: I’m really hoping to find something where I can leverage my MBA and what I’ve learned in finance to continue to bridge the “technical gap” between business folks and engineers. I think there’s a real opportunity there for growth.
Q: Is KNSD searching for a replacement for you now?
A: Mike Fouch (Manager of Technology) will be taking over day-to-day responsibilities for KNSD/KUAN. My Telemundo responsibilities will fall back to NY or Miami for now. Mike is an amazing leader and I really think he’s the right fit for NBC7 and Telemundo 20.