Venture Voice – interviews with entrepreneurs

Entertaining Entrepreneurship

VV Show #43 – Fred Seibert of Frederator Studios and Next New Networks

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Before the rise of the Internet, cable TV was the new form of distribution remaking the entertainment business. Life-long entrepreneur and former jazz producer Fred Seibert pioneered that field, and is known in the industry for branding MTV (remember their ever-changing animated logo) and Nickelodeon (remember Nick-at-Nite). While he was figuring out what to do next, Ted Turner hired him to be president of the then-struggling Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio. Fred turned the famous studio around and kept his hand in the cable business until some friends dragged him into the Internet business. He now runs Frederator Studios which produces several cable and Internet TV shows. He also just launched a new well-funded startup called Next New Networks to create Internet TV networks.

1:30 Getting started as an entrepreneur

  • Parents were “mom and pop business people,” they owned a pharmacy on Long Island.
  • Started a jazz label with a friend at age 19.
  • “I’ve never looked for a job.”

5:10 Criteria for selecting a business idea

  • “I don’t have any criteria.”

6:30 Getting into the cartoon business

  • Became a cable television exec in 1980 after being hired by Bob Pittman for a corporate startup that became MTV.
  • “I’m less an executer than I am an analyst of things.”
  • “I was a real dark horse candidate” for becoming president of Hanna-Barbera.

12:45 Creative types verses suits

  • Hired the now-MTV Networks Chairman and CEO Judy McGrath as a promo copywriter in 1981.
  • “I don’t know that I’m either.”

17:15 Fixing Hanna-Barbera

  • “Hanna-Barbera had not had a hit since 1983 with the Smurfs.”
  • “I took over Bill Hanna’s office.”
  • “I was so scared.”
  • On his first meeting with Ted Turner: “I talked with the guy for 15 minutes. In 10 minutes he was complementing my belt.”
  • Producer role model: Fred Quimby.

34:00 The Internet

  • “I had no particular interest in the Internet.”
  • Ran MTV Networks online division but quickly left after lack of support from management.
  • “We are the only major animation producer in the world that keep an active blog.”
  • Launched online video shows Channel Frederator and VODCars to great success.
  • Included Herb Scannell and Dennis Miller (not the comedian) in the discussion.
  • “We like dependability, not predictability.”
  • “Digital right management is for the birds.”

55:45 Starting Frederator

  • Called “best favorite video friend” Jakob Lodwick of College Humor and was introduced to first employee Justin.

59:00 Content

  • “It’s less about getting good content than understanding the marketplace.”

61:00 The value of Next New Networks

  • “I learned a long time ago that when I laugh out loud, I got to find the guy that did it.”
  • Business is right for working with someone like Dan Meth but maybe not Andrew Baron of Rocketboom.
  • “What our venture is about is creating structure where anything is possible.”

67:00 Bad blog reception

  • Snarky posts on Next New Networks: VentureBeatGigaOM and PaidContent.
  • Characterizing the blogs’ reaction to his company: “Here’s some fat old guys.”
  • “We’re out of the club.”
  • “The two most important partners are 30 years old.”
  • “If you saw the nasty things people wrote about us when we were doing MTV…”

73:30 Starting a company

  • “Starting a company is always the same.”
  • On starting businesses: “I think I’ll do that until I drop.”
  • “I don’t think there’s any confusion or adversity unless you’re confused and adverse.”
  • Quotes and recommends Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman: “In Hollywood, nobody knows anything.”

Fred’s book: Original Cartoons: The Frederator Studio Postcards

List of Episodes