People I Respect: Fred Seibert

This is the fifth and last in a series of posts in which I explain why I respect certain people in the animation industry and why you should do the same.

 Via: Flickr

Four years ago, if you asked me who Fred Seibert was, I would have given you the blankest look in the world. Of course, that was before I moved to the States and had the time/energy to actually indulge my passion for animation.

If you were to look back at the animated TV landscape of the last thirty years, a few names are apt to stand out: John Kricfalusi, Matt Groening and Klasky-Csupo are just a few. These, however, are the exception and even then, only one could legitimately claim to not owe his success in any way to Fred.

How so, well, Fred is often cited as the first employee hired by MTV. His experiences from that time make for good reading as he was right smack in the middle of a developing cable media revolution in America. After his stint there, he partnered with Alan Goodman to form Fred/Alan and in so doing, was promptly hired to lead the re-branding for Nickelodeon. The results of said assignment was the beloved “splat” logo that lived for 25 years before being replaced.

After that he headed west and took charge of the venerable Hanna-Barbera studio in Hollywood. There, Fred began steering the studio more towards creator-driven shows and the use of the cartoon short as a medium for discovering and developing popular series. Such instincts served him so well that they were repeated in the Oh Yeah! and Random! cartoon series that Fred produced as part of his independent studio, Frederator and resulted in at least 5 shows getting picked up. The latest being the gobsmackingly good Adventure Time.

On top of this, Fred has been at the forefront of the current media revolution, partnering with Tim Shey and others to create Next New Networks. An organisation that has spearheaded the creation of original content specifically for the web. With more than a few solid hits under their belt, the outfit was acquired by YouTube as part of that company’s drive into the original content business.

With more careers than I can ever hope to have, for being someone who is consistently looking forward, for loving cartoons and for being an avowed fan of jazz, Fred Seibert is someone I respect.

How The Online Video Revolution Could Signal A New Era for Animation

Yesterday, it was announced that YouTube/Google had acquired Next New Networks. While this may not be of huge interest to those of you who tend to skip the business pages, it is nonetheless significant and will likely have some bearing on entertainment for years to come.

The reason is outlined in Fred Seibert (the co-founder of NNN) in his blog post announcing the sale. In it, he draws a lot of similarities between the current state of internet broadcasting and the fledgling cable networks back in the early 80s.

The similarities are, in fact, eerily similar. Back then, no-one really know how to make money, the established players were (extremely) wary of the new medium and the content that’s being offered wasn’t all that great (at least back then it wasn’t).

What does all of this have to do with animation? The answer is plain to see. Without cable, it is highly unlikely (impossible even) that we would have seen the explosion in animation that we saw with the three original Nicktoons, followed by the proliferation of creator-driven shows with (I suppose) a bump in animation at the movies too.

The originial Nicktoons didn’t come around for about 10 years after MTV. The reason for this was basically the lack of cable customers, which has a direct effect on the revenue of a network and as we all know, animation ain’t cheap.

Fast forward to today, and there exists a similar situation. People are embracing the internet but overall penetration is still way below cable, content will be king even more so than in cable and last but not least, even more money will be made by those who get it right.

Next New Networks may not be focused solely on animation (although it does broadcast Channel Frederator) but I think it is extremely likely that within 10 years, we will see a channel devoted solely to animation. Joe Murray is off to a great, early start with KaboingTV, which launches next month.

As the optimistic type, I think animation will continue to be a part of the entertainment landscape long after Comcast has been de-throned.