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Thomas E. Freston is an entertainment industry executive.
Early life and education
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 Asia to start a textile and clothing business, Hindu Kush, working and living out of New Delhi India and Kabul, Afghanistan.
Returning to the USA 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 MTV: Music Television. 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, Nick at Night, VH1, Comedy Central, TV Land, Spike, Country Music Channel, Logo, 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 characters and shows included: Blue's Clues, Beavis and Butt-head, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, South Park, The Real World, Behind the Music, and Rugrats.
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.
He currently is a principal in Firefly3 LLC, a consulting and investment company. He is a consultant to Vice Media and Board Director at Moby Group.
Philanthropy and awards
Freston is now Board Chairman of the ONE Campaign, an advocacy organization for extreme poverty issues, that was started by Bono, He also serves on the boards of DreamWorks Animation, Moby Group, Vice Media and Asia Society where he funded a new department focusing on issues in Afghanistan.
He has received many industry awards and recognitions. Freston was noted by "Time" in 2006 as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2010.
- "MySpace Debacle Vindication For Fired Viacom CEO Tom Freston –". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2011-12-15.
- Turner Classic Movies: "Tom Freston" retrieved October 13, 2012
- ABC News: "Supreme Court Ruling Hailed as Victory for Special Education" By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES October 12, 2007
- NY Post: "High-flying Frestons split up" June 5, 2012
- W magazine: "Guiding Light - Self-help entrepreneur Kathy Freston brings transcendence to the media-mogul set" By Emily Holt May 2008
Schuster, Mike (2010-05-10). "So Long, Corner Office: Viacom CEO Leaves MTV for Bono". Minyanville.
- Old Viacom Bio at the Wayback Machine (archived June 11, 2005)
- Tom Freston interview video at the Archive of American Television