Thomas E. Freston
November 22, 1945
|Alma mater||Saint Michael's College (B.A.) |
New York University (MBA)
|Occupation||Business Executive and Board Chairman of the ONE Campaign|
|Known for||Viacom and Founder MTV|
|Margaret Ellen Badali (m. 1980; divorced)|
Kathy Freston (m. 1998-2012; divorced)
|Children||Andrew (b. 1985) and Gilbert (b. 1990)|
Thomas E. Freston (born November 22, 1945) is an American entertainment industry executive.
Freston grew up in Rowayton, Connecticut. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Michael's College and an MBA from New York University. Freston began his career advertising at Benton & Bowles, which later merged with D'Arcy. In 1972, after a year of traveling, he moved to South Asia to start a textile and clothing business, Hindu Kush, and worked and lived in New Delhi, India and Kabul, Afghanistan.
Returning to the United States in 1979, he joined the Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment Company (WASEC), a pioneer in the new field of cable television programming. He was one of the founding members of the team that created a music video channel MTV in 1981. As head of marketing, he worked on the "I Want My MTV" ad campaign that helped make the new network a cultural phenomenon. In 1987, he became the President and CEO of MTV Networks, a job he held for 17 years. MTV Networks launched and operated networks including: Nickelodeon, VH1, Comedy Central, TV Land, Spike, CMT, Logo TV, Noggin, and others.
As CEO of MTV Networks, Freston expanded the company's reach, built an animation studio, produced feature films, and developed large consumer product and digital businesses. Popular brands and shows included: Blue's Clues, Beavis and Butthead, SpongeBob SquarePants, Daria, The Daily Show, Jackass, South Park, Drawn Together, Crank Yankers, The Fairly OddParents, Aeon Flux, Chappelle's Show, I Love the..., Behind the Music, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Colbert Report, Wonder Showzen, The Ren & Stimpy Show, The Real World, Dora the Explorer, Rugrats, and Star Trek series (from Generation to Deep Space Nine).
In 2004, after Viacom President & COO Mel Karmazin stepped down, Freston was named Co-President & Co-COO of Viacom (along with Leslie Moonves). Freston oversaw MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures, Famous Music Publishing, and Simon & Schuster.
In January 2006, Viacom split into two separate companies: Viacom led by Freston and CBS Corporation headed by Moonves.
In September 2006, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone stunned the entertainment industry when he fired Freston from the position of CEO. One of the chief reasons for the move was that Freston hadn't moved decisively enough to buy MySpace, which was then the most popular social networking site; instead Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation purchased the site for $580 million. Redstone believed that the failure to acquire MySpace contributed to the 20% drop in Viacom's stock price in 2006 up to the date of Freston's ouster. Freston's successor as CEO, Philippe Dauman, was quoted as saying "never, ever let another competitor beat us to the trophy". Redstone told interviewer Charlie Rose that losing MySpace had been "humiliating," adding, "MySpace was sitting there for the taking for $500 million." Murdoch's company ended up selling Myspace, which had largely declined along with the rise of rival social networking website Facebook, in 2012; News Corp's sale price at the time was $35 million.
Freston is currently the principal of Firefly3 LLC, a consulting and investment company. In January 2015, he became a senior advisor to The Raine Group, a boutique merchant bank. He is a member of the boards of Imagine Entertainment, Vice Media, and Moby Group, a Dubai-based media company.
Since 2007, Freston has been Board Chair of The ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty advocacy organization that was started by Bono. He also serves on the board of the think tank New America. He has won numerous industry awards; and in 2006 was named one of the Time 100, Time magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people. He has been inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame (2011), the Cable Hall of Fame (2005), and the Broadcast and Cable Hall of Fame (2001).