HBO’s Diane Tryneski – Wonder Woman and Digital Enabler
by Leslie Ellis // February 07 2011
At 4 p.m. on August 15, 2003, when the power went out all over the East coast, Diane Tryneski was packing up. It was her last day in a 16-year run at ABC Television Networks, where she’d worked her way up from production services, to satellite communications, to SVP of television operations.
“Rather than walking out the door, she stayed on with us — finding flashlights, getting us organized, building recovery plans — until noon the next day,” recalls Preston Davis, president of broadcast operations and engineering for ABC Television Networks, and Tryneski’s boss during both of her stretches with the network.
It’s that mixture of tenacity and compassion that trigger comments like this one, from Bob Zitter, Chief Technical Officer of HBO and Tryneski’s current boss: “She’s just so highly regarded in the broadcast television industry – when people heard she was coming to HBO, they said ‘how did you pull that off?’”
After graduating from Carteret High School (Carteret, N.J.) in 1973, Tryneski and three girlfriends packed up in a Mini-Winnebego and hit the road, rolling from New York to Illinois to Nevada, around to Louisiana, and back.
Near a small gambling town in Nevada, the RV broke down. “We got towed to a gas station, and found out it was going to take a week to get the right part. We all got jobs at a casino, Tryneski says. “At night they’d roll us into the garage to sleep.”
Near the end of that journey, Tryneski decided to get serious, and getting serious meant college. She earned a four-year degree in journalism and communications (in three years time) at Rutgers University.
It was a Rutgers internship with public television broadcaster Channel 13 that sparked Tryneski’s passion for the technical and business sides of video production. The internship quickly turned into a full-time job that lasted from 1982 to 1987, when ABC came knocking.
She started on the business side of the network’s studio services group, handling production services for All My Children, One Life to Live, and Ryan’s Hope, among other shows.
From there she moved around the company, learning everything from network finance to satellite distribution. By 1999, she was senior VP of TV operations for ABC.
“That meant electronic news gathering – the people who go out and build broadcast centers for big events, political conventions, for as long as it lasts,” Tryneski says.
She wasn’t looking for another job when Discovery called. “It was a difficult decision to make, because I wasn’t ready to leave where I was,” Tryneski says. Plus, it required moving to Maryland, from New York City.
The itch to tackle a different kind of puzzle won out. She signed on in 2003 to start Discovery Production Group, charged with creating content to run on screens beyond the TV. “It intrigued me, to create programming for the Discovery suite of channels, hiring writers and producers – it was very different than what I’d done before.”
Back to ABC
Meanwhile, back at ABC, Preston Davis waited. Patiently. Three years later, his patience paid off. “I held her job open — I really thought that maybe after six months or a year, she’d see the wisdom of her ways,” he explains.
“I’m at Discovery, and I’m three years in, and I realize – once it’s all built, then what?” Tryneski recalls.
She rejoined ABC as head of TV operations in 2006. At the time, ABC was shifting from tape-based to file-based, and looking for different ways to automate newsgathering and control rooms. “They were making big changes, and that was exciting to me. Plus it was in New York,” she says.
“Diane has an amazing ability to understand the need for change, and then not only come up with an idea of what the future state will be, but also the unique ability to execute on the idea,” says Davis. “A lot of people have good ideas about what can be. Diane can get you there.”
Davis and others describe Tryneski as “incredibly organized,” “an amazing motivator,” “a real team leader,” and “a straight shooter.”
“She’s known for her directness,” says HBO’s Zitter. “If there’s someone who’s going to tell you what you need to know, in an unvarnished way, never disrespectful, always the right way – it’s Diane.”
That HBO Magic
Zitter and Tryneski had known each other for years, through mutual friends, and in broadcast industry circles. When he approached her to take HBO deeper into digital once again, the desire to solve a new puzzle won. “The HBO magic is how we got her,” Zitter jokes. “The job excited her, and the timing of what we were facing – we were on the verge of moving into the totally digital world.”
Zitter credits Tryneski, who joined HBO in 2009, with leading the company’s transition into the next phase of digital, beyond servers and storage. “Five years ago, in terms of this process of producing and distributing assets, HBO used to create about 500 assets per month,” Zitter says. “This year, we’ll do over 60,000 per month – the SD version, the HD version, all of the adaptive encoding formats.”
“Sometimes the technology is easier than the change management,” Tryneski says of the exploding number of consumer video screens, seeking content. “It’s about creating content in a more elemental way, so that one piece of content can serve multiple different formats,” like for phones, tablets, TVs, and computers.
Hobbies, Mentors, Credos
When she’s not solving complex tech-ops puzzles, she prefers to be near or on the ocean with husband Eric, CTO of National Tele-consultants, which designs TV facilities and provides media/technology consulting. (If the career paths sound similar — the two met at Channel 13.) She’s also a garden putterer.
Tryneski tributes Davis, her boss for 18 years at ABC, for teaching her the value of being open to many different points of view, and Zitter for seeing situations and ideas that are unapparent, at first. “It’s especially valuable when you’re trying to reach consensus, when there appears to be no answer.
A middle child of three, she praises her mother for teaching her about inner strength. When her father died at a young age, her mother took a night-job, waitressing, so that she could be home for breakfast with her daughter and two sons.
“All of them have compassion for people,” Tryneski says of her mentors. “As a result, it’s a core belief of mine.”
This profile originally appeared on the 2011 Wonder Women special section of Multichannel News.