Passionate Partner

NBCU’s Melissa Tolchin works hard for affiliates and for her team
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NAME: Melissa Tolchin
TITLE: Senior VP of Partner Marketing, Content Distribution
COMPANY: NBCUniversal
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Recently worked with network and distribution partners to achieve record-breaking promotion for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and FIFA World Cup. Tolchin was instrumental in the conception of NBCUniversal’s award-winning local ad sales promotion program for network tentpole priorities and continues to oversee its success.
QUOTABLE: “I really believe that partnerships are the lifeblood of the TV industry and our greatest content cannot be created or produced without our partners and the service that they provide to their subscribers.”

When Melissa Tolchin made the jump to cable in 1999, she wanted to test herself.

Melissa Tolchin

Melissa Tolchin

“For me, it’s always about how are you continuing to challenge yourself both professionally and personally and how are you growing and expanding your skill set,” said Tolchin, who moved from the NBC network to NBC Cable.

Tolchin currently serves as senior vice president of partner marketing, content distribution for NBCUniversal, where she oversees affiliate marketing for NBCU’s portfolio of cable networks, including Bravo, CNBC, E!, Golf Channel, Universal Kids, Syfy, MSNBC, NBCSN, Oxygen, Universo and USA Network, as well as NBC and Telemundo, in addition to the Olympics.

“She’s really the tip of the spear to work with our distribution partners to support [their] goals,” said Mac Budill, president of TV networks distribution, content distribution, NBCUniversal, to whom Tolchin reports. “And so she understands the networks and what they’re trying to accomplish.”

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Born in Chicago and raised in Florida, Tolchin said she wanted to work for NBC since she was younger. While attending Cornell University and working toward her bachelor’s degree in consumer economics, she interned with the Peacock Network in New York, and after graduating, the network hired her as a coordinator.

Must-See TV Fan

“All of my favorite shows were on that network,” she said of why she set her sights on NBC, where, aside from a stint at Bloomberg from 2001 to 2004, she has been ever since. “It was what was constantly on in my house growing up. It was the icing on the cake. [If] I could get there, that would be my dream entertainment job.”

She got her first taste of entertainment as a child taking acting classes. Before high school, she appeared in commercials — a national Coca-Cola ad earned her a Screen Actors Guild card — and worked as an extra.

“There was just always a love of TV and always to touch and connect with people and entertain,” she said. “So I think for me as someone who got to see the production in a very small capacity, whether it was doing a TV commercial or being [an extra] on a movie set, there was just a bit of awe for me and that’s something that I wanted to be a part of.”

Tolchin still has that passion for entertainment and it shows in her work today.

“She actually cares not only about the business but about the relationships and the people she’s working with,” said Ellen Stone, executive vice president of marketing at Bravo, Oxygen and Universal Kids. “So when you have someone who cares about both of those things, she is someone that you want to work with.”

Stone first met Tolchin in 2006 when Stone joined Bravo. At the time, Bravo had recently rebranded and the pair worked together to ensure the MVPDs knew what Bravo had to offer. “She was with me every step of the way to make sure that our talent from Bravo became front and center and was part of her annual program with the MVPDs,” Stone said.

Though both have since moved up the corporate ladder, Stone said that Tolchin continues to approach projects with that same energy.

“I’m very passionate about the work I do and the teams that I do it with and I think that every day I try to bring that enthusiasm and passion for life,” said Tolchin.

The NBCU vet manages a team of 19 at the company. She has trained them well and encourages them to take risks and ownership of their work.

“Not only is it OK for me to speak to Melissa, but I can always get to someone else and they will know what the challenges are,” Stone said. “So Melissa is a great communicator not only with us, her partners, but also with her own team.”

Tolchin, a Multichannel News “40 Under 40” honoree in 2009, has honed her skills with Women in Cable & Telecommunications and the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing. In 2011, she participated in WICT’s Betsy Magness Leadership Institute and in 2006 she completed CTAM U’s Cable Executive Management at Harvard Business School program. She now serves on CTAM’s national board.

“I can look at some of the young women on my team and see myself in some of them and I hope that I’m able to inspire them in the same way others have inspired me along the way,” Tolchin said.

Big Projects Ahead

Major projects on the horizon for Tolchin and her team include this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Copa América soccer tournament on the NBCU Hispanic networks, as well as the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The executive faces those upcoming challenges and her day-to-day life with a new sense of gratitude after she battled and beat breast cancer late last year.

“It really opened up my eyes to realize that I am so lucky,” Tolchin said. “I’m so lucky to get to do what I do every day with the people that I get to do it with. This is exactly where I want to be and I think that having this experience really just reinforced that for me.”

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