Writing about Tom Freston earlier has got me reflecting on the great boss we both had who brought us up in the early days of the cable TV business.
An old bio of Bob Pittman can fill you in on his media life before he became the key force behind the explosive growth at AOL and as vice chairman of AOL Time Warner. But for me and Tom, MTVN CEO Judy McGrath, and a whole bunch of others, Bob was the inspiration that made us work like hell to build, launch, and grow (like weeds) MTV, Nickelodeon, and Nick-at-Nite, which of course led to the explosions of 27 wildly successful cable networks around the world. As John Stewart mentioned to someone earlier today, Bob (and then Tom) built a company that spawned almost every interesting and worthwhile cable executive today (and the worthwhile ones that didn’t work there desperately hoped to).
From my perspective, Bob not only is/was smart, shrewd, and a saavy judge of talent, but, he has the best immediate media instincts of anyone I’ve ever met. To this day, if I need a ‘right’ judgement on any media issue, small or huge, I call Bob, ask him a question, and the first thing out of his mouth is right. Every. Single. Time.
As to animation, while I had done a lot before, it was Bob’s notion to do what became the revolutionary 10-second animated network IDs we produced for cable throughout the 80s. He had some wild ideas that were too weird even for MTV, and his vision of what they could be really created an alternative career for me and my partner Alan Goodman.
Not everyone had the great luck of timing to be in a room with Bob Pittman in 1980 like me, Tom, Alan, and all the others. Can’t imagine where I’d be without that luck.