John Severino, an ABC executive in Los Angeles and New York who also headed CBS’s broadcasting group and chaired regional sports network Prime Ticket, has died. He was 85.
Severino died Wednesday at his Los Angeles home, his family announced.
Between his four-year stint atop ABC in New York, Severino served as general manager of LA, owned and operated by KABC-TV from 1974-81 and 1986-88. (He hired host Jerry Dunphy during his first stay on the station, which went on to reach #1 in the ratings.)
In local news circles, Severino was known for creating the “Eyewitness News” format, which he started as vice president and GM of WLS-TV in Chicago. Critics called it too sensational, but it proved popular with viewers.
Prime Ticket, featuring Los Angeles Lakers basketball and LA Kings hockey games, was launched in October 1985 by cable pioneer Bill Daniels and Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Severino worked from offices in Century City from 1988 until announcing his retirement in August 1992. (The channel became Fox Sports West and is now Bally Sports West.)
“It’s been a great four-year run,” he told the… Los Angeles Times when he left. “For 3 1/2 years I found this job challenging and exciting. But then it started to get a bit repetitive and not that challenging.”
He later served as CEO of Central European Media, which introduced Western-style TV programming to former Eastern Bloc countries, and president of CBS’s TV stations division, overseeing all 16 of its R&Ds, beginning in 1999.
He was also GM at KCBS-TV as part of that job, which lasted a few years.
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Severino graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he played soccer and competed in four consecutive Yankee Conference Championships from 1954-58.
He began his career in the industry in 1965 as a sales executive and has lived in Los Angeles since 1974.
Survivors include his wife of 61, Sally; sons Mark and David; eight grandchildren; and brother Larry.