For a guy who never has a hair out of place, who sets business plans 18 months out and who is described by most everyone who knows him as “buttoned up,” the word “raving” may not be one that comes to mind when thinking of Dave Boylan. But the TV exec lives, and manages, by the “Raving Fans” philosophy made popular by a 1993 business book of the same name.
The way Boylan sees it, a successful TV station makes raving fans of viewers, advertisers and staffers, too. “It’s one thing to have satisfied employees, but it’s another to have people who are deeply committed to the culture, who go beyond the call of duty,” says the WPLG Miami general manager in a rumbling baritone better suited to delivering the news. “In the years I’ve been running a station, the creation of raving fans is what I like to think we do pretty well.”
Boylan’s next challenge is to make raving fans of the 200-plus ABC affiliate stations, and the brass at ABC parent Walt Disney Co., as he takes over the affiliates board chairmanship in May. Current chair Bill Hoffman says they have a winner in Boylan, whom he calls an entrepreneur, consensus-builder and problem-solver. “I’ve known David for 15 years, and he’s the right guy for this time,” says Hoffman. “He’s a terrific leader and he’s going to be a terrific chair.”
Boylan brings considerable experience and a sterling work ethic to the role. He grew up outside Chicago, his father working for the telephone company (moonlighting as a golf caddie master), and his mother working at Sears. “I came up through a rather modest economic world,” he says. “Hard work was what I saw my folks doing each and every day.”
Boylan got his start as an account executive at a local radio station in 1973 and shifted to television a few years later. His first TV GM post came in 1986, when he was tapped by broadcasting legend Jack Sander to run WGHP Greensboro (N.C.). In a decade atop WGHP, Boylan survived six different owners. “I identified with my captors each time,” he quips.
After stints running WTVT Tampa and KTTV-KCOP Los Angeles, Boylan arrived in Miami in 2003. The market represents an extraordinary challenge, with a dozen stations—including an array of strong Spanish-language outlets—clamoring for viewers’ attention. Add a pair of network-owned stations (WTVJ, WFOR) and a billionaire local owner (of WSVN) among the competition and it’s not a market for weak GMs.
Boylan says WPLG thrives on consistent ownership in Post-Newsweek and the high journalistic standards the Washington Post Co. demands. “We have the owner’s name in our call letters,” he notes. (PLG is short for Philip L. Graham, former Washington Post president.) “This is very different from the branch banking that occurs at so many other stations.”
Alan Frank, president/CEO of Post- Newsweek, credits Boylan for his bigpicture thinking. “Dave’s got remarkable systems—he’s the best I’ve ever seen at planning,” says Frank. “And he’s very inclusive, getting people from all different parts of the station involved. People very much feel a part of the station.”
Boylan puts in long workdays, but makes time for South Florida’s rich golf offerings, spending time with his wife and three adult children in the region and watching the Miami Heat, of which he is a raving fan.
Boylan’s name is mentioned as a potential station group leader, perhaps at Post- Newsweek should Frank retire. (Neither Boylan nor Frank, not surprisingly, will discuss that.) Either way, Boylan’s workload will multiply when he takes over the affiliates role. While life with the network is never perfect, ABC affiliates currently enjoy a relatively drama-free relationship. Emblematic of the symbiosis is the Inventory Exchange System that allows ABC affiliates to trade spots with the network at election time, which Boylan did the heavy lifting on as vice-chairman.
Colleagues give some credit to Boylan’s calm and practical nature for the good relations. “You couldn’t plan for a better transition than Bill Hoffman to Dave Boylan,” says board member Bill Fine. “Look up ‘seamless transition’ in the dictionary— their pictures are right there.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.