|November 22, 1945
New York City, U.S.
| Saint Michael's College (BA)
New York University (MBA)
|CEO of Viacom's MTV Networks (1987–2004)
|Board member of
| One Campaign
Margaret Ellen Badali
(m. 1998;div. 2014)
Thomas E. Freston (born November 22, 1945) is an American media executive and investor.
Freston grew up in Rowayton, Connecticut. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Michaels
College 1967 and an Master of Business Administration from New York University (1969).
Freston began his career in advertising at Benton & Bowles in 1970, which later merged with D’Arcy. In 1973, after a year of travel, 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 for eight years.
Returning to the United States in 1980, he joined 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 the music video channel MTV in 1981. As head of marketing, he worked on the “I Want My MTV” campaign that help make the new network a cultural phenomenon. In 1987 he became President and CEO of MTV Networks, a job held for 17 years. MTV Networks launched and operated networks including, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, VH1, Comedy Central, TV Land, Country Music Television, Noggin, and others. Its hit shows like SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer, Blues Clues, Rugrats, The Real World, Beavis & Butthead, the Video Music Awards, Unplugged, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Behind the Music, Storytellers, 120 Minutes, South Park became pop culture mainstays.
Freston grew MTV Networks into a global multi-billion-dollar business, expanding into international television, film production and product licensing and merchandising. MTV became the first international television network, with separate feeds in over 100 countries on every continent with hundreds of millions of viewers. MTV Networks produced 40 feature films with sister division Paramount that grossed over $2.1 billion worldwide. Films included Beavis & Butthead Do America, Napoleon Dynamite, Jackass, SpongeBob, Election, Zoolander, Team America, and others.
In 2004, after Viacom President and COO Mel Karmazin stepped down, Freston was named Co-President and COO of Viacom (along with Leslie Moonves). Freston oversaw MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures, Famous Music Publishing, and Simon & Schuster.
On January 1, 2006, Viacom was split into suits two separate companies – the second Viacom, led by Freston, and CBS Corporation headed by Moonves. Both were under National Amusements administration until 2019.
In September 2006, Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone stunned the entertainment industry when he fired Freston from his position of CEO. One of the chief reasons was that Freston had not moved decisively to buy MySpace, then the most popular social networking site. Instead, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation purchased it for $580 million. Redstone believed that the failure to acquire MySpace contributed to a drop in Viacom stock price in 2006. Freston 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 with the rise of rival social network Facebook. In 2012 News Corporation sold MySpace for $35 million.
Freston formed a consulting and investment company, Firefly3 LLC, that invested in media related start-ups.
In 2007 he became the Board Chair of the ONE Campaign, an advocacy group fighting poverty and preventable disease in Africa founded by Bono, lead singer of U2, in 2004. As of 2024, he has served as Board Chair for 17 years. ONE is funded by the Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Open Society Foundation, and others.
In 2007, he returned to Afghanistan to work with the Moby Group's Tolo TV, the leading private broadcaster in the country. Moby Group went on to launch other media businesses in India, Ethiopia, and other frontier markets. Freston served as both advisor and board member until 2018.
In 2008, he became advisor to Oprah Winfrey for her launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), a partnership with Discovery Networks.
In 2011 Freston became a Senior Advisor to The Raine Group, a boutique merchant bank specializing in the technology, media, and telecom businesses (TMT). There he served on the boards of Vice Media, Margaritaville Enterprises, and Imagine Entertainment.
He has served on the board of New America, a Washington DC-based think tank. He is a trustee Emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History and has served on the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has written 30+ travel related articles for Vanity Fair.
He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 2010. He was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2005 Mr. Freston was cited in Time magazine's initial '100 Most Influential People in the World' issue. He has received many industry awards and honors.
In 1980, Freston married Margaret Ellen Badali. They had two children and later divorced.
In 1998, Freston married Kathy Law, a former model, self-help author, and health and wellness expert. They divorced in 2014.
Beavis and Butt-Head is an American adult animated black comedy series created by Mike Judge for MTV and later Paramount+. The series follows Beavis and Butt-Head, both voiced by Judge, a pair of teenage slackers characterized by their apathy, lack of intelligence, lowbrow humor, and love for hard rock and heavy metal.
The second incarnation of Viacom Inc. was an American multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate with interests primarily in film and television. It was established on December 31, 2005, as one of two companies which succeeded the original Viacom, alongside the second CBS Corporation. The controlling shareholder of both companies was National Amusements, a theater company headed by businessman Sumner Redstone. The split was structured so that the original Viacom changed its name to CBS Corporation and spun out its cable and film interests as a new Viacom.
Sumner Murray Redstone was an American billionaire businessman and media magnate. He was the founder and chairman of the second incarnation of Viacom, chairman of CBS Corporation, and the majority owner and chairman of the National Amusements theater chain.
Leslie Roy Moonves is an American media executive who was the chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation from 2003 until his resignation in September 2018 following numerous allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and abuse. He has been married to TV personality Julie Chen since 2004.
MTV Entertainment Studios is the film and television production arm of MTV Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of the Paramount Media Networks division of Paramount Global. Founded in 1991 as MTV Productions, it is a consolidation of the former MTV Films group established in 1996 and the MTV Production Development/MTV Studios group of 2003–2021, it has produced original television shows like Beavis and Butt-Head, Æon Flux, Jackass, My Super Sweet 16, Daria, Celebrity Deathmatch, Clone High and The Real World and films such as Election, Joe's Apartment and Napoleon Dynamite. Its films are released by fellow Paramount Global division Paramount Pictures. The MTV Films unit was part of Paramount Players until 2020.
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America is a 1996 American adult animated comedy road film based on the MTV animated television series Beavis and Butt-Head. The film was co-written and directed by series creator Mike Judge, who also reprises his roles from the series; Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, Robert Stack and Cloris Leachman star in supporting roles. The film follows Beavis and Butt-Head, two teen delinquents who travel the US and unknowingly become fugitives.
The second incarnation of CBS Corporation was an American multinational media company with interests primarily in commercial broadcasting, publishing, and television production. It was formed on December 31, 2005, as the legal successor of the original Viacom, following the spin-off of the second incarnation of Viacom; both CBS Corporation and the second Viacom were controlled by National Amusements, a theater company owned by billionaire Sumner Redstone.
Shari Ellin Redstone is an American media executive. She currently serves as the non-executive chairwoman of Paramount Global and president of National Amusements, and is a former vice chairperson of CBS Corporation and Viacom. Through National Amusements, Redstone and her family are majority owners of CBS, Comedy Central, BET, Showtime Networks, Nickelodeon, MTV and the film studio Paramount Pictures.
The Cycle Sluts from Hell were an American heavy metal band from the late 1980s to early 1990s. The band was made up of four women singing under the stage names Queen Vixen, She-Fire of Ice, Honey One Percenter, and Venus Penis Crusher, backed by various musicians, including Pete Lisa, Christopher Moffett, Tom Von Doom, Fernando Rosario, Brian Smith, Scott Duboys, Bobby Gustafson, and Eddie Coen.
MTV Japan is the Japanese version of the cable television network based in Japan. It is a subsidiary of Paramount Networks Japan K.K., and was launched on November 15, 1993. It can be viewed on cable television, SKY PerfecTV!, SKY PerfecTV! e2 and IPTV.
Beavis and Butt-Head in Virtual Stupidity is a point-and-click adventure computer game based on the American animated television series created by Mike Judge, Beavis and Butt-Head, that was developed by ICOM Simulations and published by Viacom New Media. It was released on August 31, 1995.
The original incarnation of Viacom Inc. was an American mass media and entertainment conglomerate based in New York City. It began as CBS Television Film Sales, the broadcast syndication division of the CBS television network in 1952; it was renamed CBS Films in 1958, renamed CBS Enterprises in 1968, renamed Viacom in 1970, and spun off into its own company in 1971. Viacom was a distributor of CBS television series throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and also distributed syndicated television programs. The company went under Sumner Redstone's control in 1987 through his cinema chain company National Amusements.
Bill Flanagan is an American author, television executive and radio host. He was born in Rhode Island and graduated from Brown University in 1977. His books include Written in My Soul (1986), Last of the Moe Haircuts (1986), U2 at the End of the World (1995), and the novels A&R (2000), New Bedlam (2007), Evening's Empire (2010), and Fifty in Reverse (2020).
John Sykes is an American entertainment executive and the President of Entertainment Enterprises for iHeartMedia since 2011. As of January 2020, he is now also the Chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. Sykes was a co-founder of MTV and throughout his career has held leadership positions including President, VH1; President, Chrysalis Records – North America; Executive Vice President, Artist Acquisitions, EMI Music Publishing; and Chairman and CEO, Infinity Broadcasting Corporation.
Robert Marc Bakish is an American business executive. He has been president and CEO of Paramount Global since December 4, 2019, formerly holding the same position at Viacom before the merger with CBS Corporation.
Paramount Global is an American multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate controlled by National Amusements and headquartered at One Astor Plaza in Midtown Manhattan in New York City. The company was formed on December 4, 2019, as ViacomCBS Inc. through the merger of the second incarnations of CBS Corporation and Viacom. The company changed its name to Paramount Global on February 16, 2022, the day after its Q4 earnings presentation.
The 2019 merger of CBS Corporation and Viacom was announced on August 13, 2019, and was completed on December 4, 2019. The merger of equals reunited CBS Corporation and Viacom into a single company known as ViacomCBS after their separation from the first incarnation of Viacom on December 31, 2005. Both companies were owned by the theater company National Amusements, which remains the owner of the merged entity.
HaHa Nick was a television programming block co-produced by Nickelodeon and Shanghai Media Group (SMG). It consisted of original live-action host programs and several of Nickelodeon's flagship American shows, dubbed in Mandarin. It aired on multiple SMG channels, mainly their children's network, Oriental.
Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe is a 2022 American adult animated science fiction comedy film directed by John Rice and Albert Calleros and written by Mike Judge, Lew Morton, Guy Maxtone-Graham and Ian Maxtone-Graham. It is the second film based on the animated television series Beavis and Butt-Head after Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996). The film follows teenage delinquents Beavis and Butt-Head, who are transported 24 years from 1998 to 2022, encounter parallel-universe versions of themselves and are hunted by the US government.