“When I tell colleagues about that, they always get a kick out of it,” says Pietrycha, who in October 2011 became senior vice president and chief financial officer for NBC News. “You can’t imagine a role that’s further below the radar of a television network.”
Another plot twist: Working for a media organization was not initially on Pietrycha’s own radar.
“My wife and I had always wanted to live in New York City,” explains the New England native, who pulled up stakes soon after earning his MBA at Bentley in 2005. “But I had no idea what industry I wanted to work in.”
From the NBC retail store post, Pietrycha moved to the network’s Stations division. His job in the Financial Planning and Analysis group involved accounting, budgeting and other highly detailed tasks.
“It’s important to do roles like that,” he says. “You’ve got to know what goes on in a quarter close before you can oversee a team that does it.”
A handful of promotions followed, with Pietrycha taking the reigns as chief financial officer at MSNBC in 2010.
In his current role, Pietrycha continues to oversee finance-related matters at MSNBC, but now the rest of NBC’s news programming and businesses — including Today and Dateline — are under his watch, too. Day to day, he deals with everything from budgeting to controllership.
“News is a very dynamic business,” says Pietrycha, who clearly thrives on the unpredictability. “You can’t know what the news cycle is going to be, which means you don’t know how much money you’ll have to spend covering it.
“At the same time, there are budget commitments that we need to hit. So every day brings a different challenge.”
The first quarter of 2011 was especially rife with financial quandaries. Several major world events — from the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to an earthquake and tsunami in Japan — broke in quick succession, and NBC News pulled out all the stops to report on each story.
Pietrycha’s role in these situations is to work with the News division president and others to determine the financial tipping point of decisions such as sending Ann Curry, Brian Williams and other top-line talent to cover stories on location.
“We look very closely at when it makes the most sense for talent to come out, from a cost and a ratings standpoint,” he explains. “There’s a competitive factor as well. If ABC sends Diane Sawyer to cover these events and we pull Brian Williams out first, that’s an issue.”
Navigating the changing landscape of news reporting in the age of social networks, blogs, and the like is another aspect of Pietrycha’s work. There’s now more focus on prioritizing digital content. For example, NBC’s new primetime show Rock Center with Brian Williams offers certain segments online before the program airs.
“The challenge in dedicating funds is that some of these economic models aren’t really proven yet,” Pietrycha notes. “At the same time, I’m aware that to be relevant in the game, we have to allocate resources and play in this digital space. We just have to be careful about how heavily we jump in.”
Whatever the challenges, working at NBC has its perks. Over the years, Pietrycha has attended presidential debates, toured the White House with newsman Chuck Todd, and bumped into everyone from presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to celebrity guests of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
“Just walking around this building every day, you never know whom you’re going to run into,” he says. “It’s just amazing that way.”