By Zion Sealy
Alumnus Richard Borjas '02 has always had a strong passion for the television and entertainment scene. He graduated from FIU with a bachelor's in Mass Communication and Broadcast Journalism and has since gone on to become Vice President of Programming and Development at NBCUniversal Media.
What path did you take to attain your current career as Vice President of programming and development at NBCUniversal Media?
I feel that all the roles I have had in my career have prepared me for this one. It has always been a professional goal of mine to work for NBC and “cross-over” to the general market from Spanish media. When I learned of this opportunity, I went through the interview process and once selected, transferred from Telemundo in Miami to NBC in Los Angeles. I think my experience as a production executive in various genres, and the fact that I was an internal and diverse candidate was helpful in the selection process.
What has been the coolest thing about your job so far?
Helping launch The Kelly Clarkson Show and assisting in the revamp of Access Hollywood. We are very proud that Kelly earned three Daytime Emmys in her first year. That sort of thing rarely happens, so we were honored when the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized the team with three of these prestigious awards. As for Access, we acquired Mario Lopez and completely rebranded the show—[from] format, set, graphics and music. I'm lucky to work with some of the most talented executive producers and teams in the industry. They truly are the best of the best!
How have your responsibilities as Vice President shifted since the pandemic, and how have you been managing all these changes?
The year 2019 was about getting The Kelly Clarkson Show and Access Hollywood launched and running smoothly, which we did. Our goal for 2020 was to focus more on development and identify new formats, talents and possible show runners for our syndication division. We were very much on our way to do that and then COVID-19 hit. Our team has been working from home since the second week of March, and we are taking a lot of pitch meetings and supporting the shows remotely. Fortunately, we can do our work from home, so we have been keeping very busy and productive.
How has your heritage, along with being raised in Los Angeles and South Florida, influenced the work you do today?
I am thankful that my parents instilled such a positive outlook on my heritage and the importance of speaking two languages and appreciating two cultures. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and then later moved to Miami. Luckily, both cities are very inclusive of diversity. I think that made my entry into Spanish language television very natural. I am a proud to be a fully-bilingual and fully bicultural Latino who can work in both markets.
What is it like to work with successful and reputable television shows such as the “The Kelly Clarkson Show” and “Access Hollywood”?
Both shows have such a strong identity and format, so the viewer knows what they’re tuning into daily and what their takeaway will be. On Kelly, we try to keep our stories very uplifting and feature a lot of human-interest segments. There is also the “Kellyokee” segment, which is how we start every episode, where Kelly sings a cover song. That’s something you can only see on our show! As for Access Hollywood, we pride ourselves in being the type of entertainment news program that is friends with the celebrities we feature and are proud to be celebrating our 25th anniversary this upcoming season.
What made you decide to work in the media/broadcasting field?
Ever since I was a child, I knew that I wanted to be in television. It’s my passion and what I live for. I studied Broadcast Journalism and at first, I thought I wanted to be in front of the camera. I quickly learned that production was more my wheelhouse and stayed behind the scenes after graduating from FIU.
What does a typical day for you look like?
It consists of a lot of meetings, sometimes it’s with the executive producers of the shows and supporting them with the overall production of the programs. I attend weekly development meetings with my boss and Executive Vice President of creative affairs, Tracie Wilson, and colleagues to review and access potential formats and projects. We work closely with all internal departments in doing so, such as business affairs, legal, human resources, finance, marketing and public relations. I also do a lot of research on what’s going on in the industry and focus on producing and developing formats for syndication and for possible consideration across the NBC portfolio.
How does your job connect back to your time at FIU?
FIU was my first platform for television. It’s where I learned the basic principles of journalism. I use a lot of those same principals of Broadcast Journalism in the supervision of various shows I’ve worked on at Telemundo and NBC, as they have been governed by NBC news guidelines.
Were there any classes or professors that influenced where you are today?
My semester in the film and television course was the best hands-on experience one could ask for. We were tasked with doing our final “thesis” on somebody in the industry. I was already working as a producer for Univision at the time and my class partner and work colleague Marybel Rodriguez was a former model for a very successful variety show, Sabado Gigante. We decided to do our project on the host of this program and compare the real-life persona of Mario Kreutzburger and his television alias “Don Francisco.” Because we had firsthand access to Mario, it made our process of interviewing him, shooting and lighting our own story and posting the piece that much easier. It was a real treat to end our television journey at FIU with this assignment! As for professors, Bert Delgado was stellar. I later worked with both of his sons during my professional career.
What advice do you have for students who will be entering the workforce soon and are interested in a career in media and broadcasting?
I would say they should do at least one internship, if possible. I was fortunate enough to do two and it really paved the way for my career. At NBC, we have an amazing early career development experience called the Page Program. It consists of a 12-month paid fellowship at NBCUniversal’s studios in New York City and Universal City, California. Over the course of a year, ‘pages’ gain exposure to various areas of the portfolio and contribute to various teams during their assignments.
What are three words you would use to describe FIU?
Pride, inclusivity and excellence.