A Veteran Media Expert continues to Revolutionize the Entertainment Industry
When listening to music, have you ever caught yourself smirking while envisioning the video? Or roared with laughter at movies such as Dumb and Dumber and Austin Powers? Felt transported into the mystical world portrayed in Lord of the Rings? If you answered yes, then you’re a fan of Robert Friedman’s work. These examples are but a small sample of his contributions to the entertainment industry.
Robert is a GIFF Board Member and began his career right out of Columbia Business School at Grey Advertising where he focused on branding. He still stands firm by the claim, ‘Joy liquid soap leaves dishes spotless.’ Not long after, a family friend asked if he would be interested in a new venture that would intersect music and television. He leapt at the opportunity to transfer his skills to MTV, thus making Friedman a member of the original start-up team at MTV.
Robert went on to become the President of AOL, Interactive Marketing, and then Co-Chairman of New Line Cinema in charge of Worldwide Theatrical Marketing & Licensing and President of New Line Television, which he launched for the company. Following, he spent several years as the President and Managing Partner of Classic Media, the family entertainment company owned by DreamWorks Animation and Comcast, before becoming the President of RadicalMedia & Entertainment, the company that produced the pilot for Mad Men.
In 2013, Robert and a team of talented and seasoned professionals established Bungalow Media + Entertainment. The production company focuses on smart, innovative and culturally relevant programming. GIFF was fortunate to talk with Robert and get his perspective into the world of media.
Congratulations on just being honored with the prestigious Chairman’s Award at the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
It’s about time! The reality is that I’m more flattered than I could have ever imagined. When you spend your life at big companies such as MTV, Viacom, Time Warner, to a certain extent it takes a personification of you. Bungalow was particularly important because I had never run anything so entrepreneurial. Most of the time when they do these award ceremonies it goes to larger companies. So I was particularly flattered when they picked myself and Bungalow. Additionally, some of the former recipients were mentors to me. The night was spectacular.
You’ve been an integral part of the media industry for over 30 years, can you give some insight on where things stand in 2019?
This is an amazing time to be on this side of the business. There’s a new array of buyers: Netflix, Amazon, various platforms. My timing has been impeccable. It’s great to be at an independent, tv, film, and digital content company.
After years of working at large corporations how does it feel to run a more entrepreneurial company?
Great! I worked with probably 75% of the team prior to Bungalow. We all treat each other with respect. While I really enjoyed working for my former bosses, there were aspects of working at a large corporation that irritated me. At Bungalow, I was able to implement some of the changes. For instance, everyone is invested in the company. From the moment you start, you get equity in it. There is no set vacation time. Everyone who works here is a grown up and a hard worker! We don’t monitor how many days each person takes out of the office. And titles don’t matter – everyone is part of the team.
How do you stay not only relevant but revolutionary in your way of thinking and selecting your programming?
Listening! Listening to your audience. I went to Vassar College, which is and was primarily women. I think there is something about women that they have a better ability to listen. We know this about medicine. There’s been a lot of research-women listen better than men. After growing up at a school primarily women, being in that environment, it helped me in business. Also, setting up for the future it’s important to leave a little room for change. That’s what we mean by entrepreneurial. Listen to the audience and keeping space for change.
Bungalow has already produced so many amazing programs, and more are coming down the pike. How do you find your content?
A couple different ways. We are well known in New York. So I would say about 35%-40% come through the door. We don’t care whose idea it is. Bungalow is a good partner. Also we have an internal development group that looks at different networks and genres for inspiration. Additionally, we are represented by our agency, ICM Partners. They help to find programs to meet the demand. Lastly, we have an in-house department focused on branding for advertisers. They come to us with a message and we can marry them with a show that can support their brand.
It’s important to us to produce diverse programs. For instance, over the last year or so there has been a focus on co-viewing programs. We have a show on NBC, “Give”, with Blair Underwood, which illustrates philanthropic outreach. It’s perfect for families, and also really resonates with millennials. Alternatively, in November, “The Preppy Murder” will be simulcast on AMC and SundanceTV. This five-part series re-examines the 1986 killing of Jennifer Levin. Currently we’re working on “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein” with Lifetime. The story will be told through the lens of the survivors who submitted their stories to directly Lifetime
We have lots of programs in the works. It’s really such a great time to be at an independent production company such as Bungalow.
To learn more about Bungalow Media + Entertainment visit their website at, https://www.bungalowentertainment.com/