In a masterful stroke of corporate synergy, current NBC Sports Chicago senior vice president and general manager Kevin Cross will assume the same responsibilities (as president and GM) for NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV) and Spanish-language Telemundo Chicago (WSNS-TV) effective June 1, succeeding a retiring David Doebler, who is exiting after eight years.
The news was first reported by Robert Feder Tuesday morning. All three share a corporate parent in NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast Corp.
“Kevin is an effective and empathetic leader. A native of Chicago’s southside, he has more than 25 years of experience working in the region and is the perfect person to take the helm of NBCUniversal’s local businesses in Chicago, said NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations President Valari Staab, whom Cross would be reporting to. “I look forward to seeing the new milestones that our teams at NBC 5, Telemundo Chicago and NBC Sports Chicago will reach together as they build upon their already successful work in delivering the best in local news and sports for Chicago’s English and Spanish-speaking audiences.”
Cross has an extensive background in sports programming. He began his career at the former SportsChannel Chicago in 1993 and became a senior producer in 1998, a year after SportsChannel transitioned into Fox Sports Chicago, and was responsible for Bulls and White Sox pre- and post-game shows. In 2000, he went to Timeline Productions when he produced and syndicated sports programming, and moved to the former CLTV in 2003 as an executive producer where he helped create Sports Page and other sports-related programs.
Cross later joined CSN Chicago (now NBC Sports Chicago) as assistant news director and was producer for several studio shows. In 2012, he became news and original content director and was promoted to his current position two years ago. The regional sports network weathered the loss of the Chicago Cubs and re-positioned itself as the exclusive local home for Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, and Chicago White Sox games.
NBC 5 is looking to capitalize on the turmoil surrounding ABC 7 (WLS-TV) after the controversial departure of sports anchor Mark Giangreco. An item in Feder’s column recently noted the NBC-owned station has tied ABC 7 this month for first place at 10 p.m. in the key 25-54 adult demo, a feat NBC 5 has done often in the last few years.
Cross’s addition of GM duties at NBC 5 also marks the first time an African-American has led a local TV station in the Chicago market in about 20 years. Lyle Banks led NBC 5 in the late 1990s, a period marked by turmoil when he and then-news director Joel Cheatwood hired then-trash TV talk show host Jerry Springer to deliver commentaries during the station’s 10 p.m. newscast, leading to the resignations of lead anchors Carol Marin and Ron Magers.
Chicago’s first African-American GM at a local TV station was Jonathan Rodgers, a position he held at CBS-owned WBBM-TV from 1986 to 1990 before being promoted to president of CBS’ owned-and-operated television stations group and later became president of Discovery Networks.