Alumni Q&A with Nancy McKenna
Nancy A. McKenna, vice president of production for truTV, graciously accepted an invitation to be the first subject in IvyLink’s Alumni Q&A feature. A 1978 Penn State graduate and former Penn State Altoona student, McKenna oversees production of truTV’s prime time original programming, negotiates production and talent contracts, and manages all production budgets and department budgets.
Throughout her distinguished career in television, McKenna has been selected for numerous senior-level executive positions with oversight responsibilities for areas such as production, program development, management, and studio operations. She was presented a Daytime Emmy for producing AMC’s documentary series Film Preservation Classics and a Gracie Award for producing AMC in Concert with Dionne Warwick.
Prior to accepting her current position at truTV, McKenna was executive director of operations at SportsNet NY; vice president of production and programming at iN DEMAND Networks; vice president of production at AMC (American Movie Classics); and production manager/unit manager/field producer at ABC Television Network.
Headquartered in New York City, McKenna is also a graduate of Simmons College Graduate School of Management. An Altoona native, McKenna resides in Huntington, New York.
Q: When you were a Penn State student, what were your career goals?
A: When I began as a freshman, I wanted to be a newspaper reporter so obviously I was a journalism major. One day as I passed the student production studio and sat in on a few classes, I became fascinated. Shortly thereafter I switched majors to communications/broadcasting.
Q: How did your education at Penn State Altoona and University Park prepare you for success in your various executive positions?
A: I think my education at Penn State laid a great foundation for my future not only professionally but also life in general.
Q: What has provided the most professional satisfaction or fondest memories?
A: It is hard to pinpoint just one. I have had so many opportunities to experience world events from political conventions and Inaugurations to Peace Talks and major sporting events.
Q: What has inspired you to remain in television throughout the years?
A: It is an ever-changing environment, and no day is the same. You never know what each day’s challenge will bring.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your leadership role at truTV?
A: I have the pleasure of working with some of the most talented, creative people and empowering them to produce the best high-quality programming possible.
Q: Among the television and movies stars you have met, who was the most interesting to converse with and why?
A: Tim Burton. He is so innovative, fascinating and intriguing but yet very approachable and down to earth. I am a huge fan.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in producing prime time original programming?
A: You never know what is going to be the next trend and trying to stay ahead of the curve. When I was at ABC and working on soap operas, I would never have dreamed that they would one day almost be extinct as they are now.
Q: Do you have time to actually watch much television, and what types of programming are your favorites?
A: I watch a tremendous amount of TV. Besides the programming on truTV (Hardcore Pawn, Impractical Jokers, Lizard Lick Towing just to name a few), some of my other current favorites are Downton Abbey, Homeland, Revolution, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men. I also watch a lot of sports.
Q: What is the future of television?
A: I think TV will be around indefinitely but the nature in which viewers watch will be ever changing.
Q: What are one or two of your fondest memories of Penn State Altoona?
A: I only spent my freshman year there, and I did enjoy the intimacy of the classes, the one-on-one with the professors and the beauty of the campus setting.
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