Robert John Brillante (born February 27, 1959) is an entrepreneur and long-time advocate for ending racism in America. Brillante was born on a U.S. Army base in Bad Kreuznach, Germany to Major Orlando E. Brillante and Alda Perry Brillante. After his father retired from military service, Brillante’s family relocated to central Florida where his father built the State’s first cable television company, Florida Cable. Brillante spent his formative years working and learning about the cable television business from his father; and, after graduating from college, Brillante joined the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association (FCTA) as the Director of Legislative and Regulatory Activities. Within two years, Brillante was promoted to Executive Vice President. During his tenure with the FCTA, Brillante and Dave Reid, former vice president of marketing for Continental Cablevision of Jacksonville, Florida, developed the idea for the Sunshine Network, an all-sports cable program network for Florida. Brillante and Reid successfully shepherded the launch of Sunshine Network with its headquarters in Orlando, Florida. Today, Sunshine Network is an affiliate of Fox Sports Net and has been renamed Sun Sports. Brillante left his position with FCTA after 14 years of service to launch statewide 24-hour cable news network, Florida’s News Channel (FNC), based in Tallahassee, Florida. FNC was the nation’s first television news company to employ PC-based content, virtual reality news environments, and an ATM switched broadband fiber optic transmission network. The debut of Florida’s News Channel in 1998 was the largest of any regional news network in the industry’s history at that time. FNC quickly established itself as the industry leader in newsgathering technology and reporting issues important to the African American community. FNC’s network facilities were sold to Gray Television in 2004 after FNC entered a lengthy court battle over the distribution of the network’s programming to Comcast subscribers throughout the State of Florida. The legal dispute between FNC’s management and Comcast was settled in 2005. Brillante is now working to launch a national 24-hour cable news network that specifically targets the African American television audience. Brillante is partnered with former Congressman J.C. Watts, Jr. in this endeavor.
Brillante is married to Dana Brillante. The couple currently resides in North Florida, maintaining a home in the State’s Capitol City and on beautiful St. George Island. Brillante’s hobbies include saltwater fishing, racquetball, and golf. He also volunteers his time to work with rescue animals.
Brillante was born the youngest of three children to Orlando E. Brillante and Alda Perry Brillante on February 27, 1959 in Kaiserslautern, Germany on a U.S. Army base where his father was stationed. In 1964, his father retired from military service and moved his family to Indialantic, Florida. Brillante’s father became a cable television pioneer by starting the State’s first cable television system, Florida Cable. Brillante grew up in his father’s business where he climbed telephone poles, installed cable boxes, and sold cable television subscriptions door-to-door. Brillante graduated from Melbourne High School and attended Florida Technical University, later named University of Central Florida, where he earned two degrees in business. During his college years, Brillante developed his business and leadership skills as a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, campus student government, Key Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Big Brothers of Orlando, and the semi-pro football team Orlando Cyclones in the position of quarterback. After graduating from college, Brillante accepted the position of Director of Legislative and Regulatory Activities for the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association. Within two years, Brillante was promoted to Executive Vice President. As Executive Vice President, Brillante was responsible for overseeing and managing the Association’s regulatory activities before the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as well as strategic planning and implementing legislative policy. Brillante’s most notable accomplishments during his 14-year tenure at FCTA include (1) the successful passage of legislation that protected cable TV and satellite operators from signal theft, (2) the adoption of cable TV franchising laws that prohibited cable system overbuilders from cherry-picking only lucrative, high-income customers and neighborhoods to serve and denying the benefits of competition to low income communities, (3) the development of a business model and successful launch of the State’s first regional sports network, the Sunshine Network, and (4) the enactment of state tax policy that protected affordable access to cable TV for many low income and minority customers. Brillante was also a leading advocate for utilizing enhanced telecommunications technology to provide advanced skills training, telemedicine, and smart learning applications to consumers. Under Brillante’s leadership, Florida’s cable operators, collectively and at their own expense, extended hundreds of miles of broadband coaxial cable and/or fiber optics to more than 2,600 K-12 public schools, 10 state universities, and multiple junior colleges, as well as hospitals, court houses, and emergency management facilities. As a result, Florida today is home to one of the most comprehensive and robust telecommunications infrastructures in the world. While serving on former Governor Bob Martinez’s distance learning task force, Brillante was a proponent for using Florida’s ubiquitous telecommunications infrastructure to export skills training and other educational curriculum provided by the State’s many and diverse academic experts to South America and other developing countries.
Also during his time at FCTA, Brillante founded an advertising agency, Cable Power, which specialized in buying bulk advertising availabilities on cable TV and a consulting firm, Media Strategies, Inc. (MSI), which provided services to many Florida politicians. In addition, Brillante launched Brillante Enterprises, Inc. (BE), in 1986. BE began as a publishing company specializing in trade directories and magazines for the cable television industry; but it soon expanded to include other trade industries and services. Today, BE is a full-service publishing and communications agency, specializing in all media platforms. Brillante resigned from his position at FCTA in order to launch a statewide 24-hour cable news network, Florida’s News Channel.
Florida’s News Channel
Brillante launched Florida’s News Channel, A New World of Television News, in 1998. FNC was a regional cable news network available on Florida’s cable television systems (e.g. Comcast, GTE, TCI Cable, AT&T Broadband, and Continental Cablevision). The launch of FNC marked a breakthrough in the production and distribution of television news content. FNC’s viewers were the first to see virtual reality news environments with customized local scenery in each of Florida’s seven major television markets. News programming gathered by FNC’s 26 news crews, seven NBC affiliated broadcast stations, and one Fox affiliate was transmitted from each local market back to the network’s operation center located in Tallahassee, Florida via FNC’s ATM-switched OC3 fiber optic network. News content was then packaged in a Headline News template, refreshed every half hour, and distributed to each local market. All of the six local news feeds were customized to display local scenery and the branding elements associated with the local cable TV distributor by using virtual reality news environments. Brillante both owned and managed FNC’s operations. Brillante partnered with renowned trial attorney Willie E. Gary, sports legends Evander Holyfield and Cecil Fielder, Marlon Jackson of The Jackson 5, and broadcast television veteran Alvin James to form MBC News, LLC for which Brillante served as managing partner. MBC News created nightly newscasts that featured stories of interest to and about people of color. These newscasts were hosted by Emmy Award-winning anchor Gordon Graham, Val Bracy, and Karla Winfrey (cousin to Oprah Winfrey). The MBC News nightly newscast was broadcast from FNC’s studio facilities and received by virtually half the nation’s African American cable television households in 2002. FNC’s network facilities were sold to Gray Television in 2004 after FNC entered a lengthy court battle over the distribution of the network’s programming to Comcast subscribers throughout the State of Florida. The legal dispute between FNC’s management and Comcast was settled in 2005. Today, FNC’s former studios are home to Gray Television’s local CBS affiliate, WCTV, and ABC affiliate, WTXL.
Black Television News Channel
Brillante is currently working to launch a national 24-hour cable news network targeting African American television viewers called Black Television News Channel (BTNC). The mission of BTNC is to provide intelligent programming that informs, educates, entertains, inspires, and empowers its African American audience. BTNC’s original programming will target a dynamic, high-growth, loyal consumer who finds himself, today, marginalized to sound bites concerning sports, crime, or entertainment by the mainstream news media and is grossly underserved by cable television’s programming options. The development of BTNC’s operational model and programming concepts began several years ago when Brillante partnered his regional news network with an African American entertainment network to produce a nightly one-hour newscast. This pilot newscast was delivered to more than eight million cable television homes during an 18-month trial period. Simultaneously, feature “news-talk” programs targeting African Americans were produced and distributed to approximately two million cable homes throughout the State of Florida. This multi-million dollar trial period not only enabled BTNC’s management to evaluate the demand for its programming, but also offered an opportunity to create valuable news gathering “content” partnerships. Likewise, the trial period enabled BTNC’s management to test new IP video transmission platforms and forge strong marketing and promotional alliances within the black faith-based community, as well as with African American business leaders, entertainers, and lawmakers. Black Television News Channel’s experienced management team is led by former Congressman J.C. Watts, Jr., a graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s College of Journalism, a celebrated athlete, an ordained minister, a popular television commentator, and a successful entrepreneur. Watts offers BTNC a lifetime of experience and relationships in business, political, and black communities. Brillante will serve as co-manager, and Frank Watson will serve as vice president and general manager.