Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Geraldine Laybourne to be Inducted Into The Television Academy's 25th Hall of Fame Class

The Television Academy's Hall of Fame Selection Committee today announced that groundbreaking female executive and entrepreneur Geraldine Laybourne, the first president of Nickelodeon, as one of the five television legends that will be inducted into the 25th Hall of Fame class.


The Hall of Fame honors those who have made outstanding contributions in the arts, sciences or management of television over a lifetime career or via singular achievements.

The ceremony and red carpet arrivals will take place on Tuesday, January 28, 2020, at the Television Academy's Saban Media Center.

Laybourne begun her tenure at Nickelodeon in 1980 when she was hired as a program manager at the then one-year-old network, where she initiated the focus-group approach to programming.

Laybourne was one of the first people to focus on television programming for kids. She spent 15 years at Nickelodeon, taking over the management of the network, and started accepting advertising for the network, in 1984.

Laybourne and her team were responsible for creating and building the Nickelodeon brand, launching Nick at Nite and expanding the network by establishing it in other countries, developing theme parks, opening the Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida, and creating Nickelodeon Magazine, movie, toy and publishing divisions.

Under her leadership, Nickelodeon became the top-rated 24-hour cable programming service and won Emmy Awards, Peabody Awards, CableACE Awards and Parents' Choice Awards. The network had a 40% profit margin and explosive growth every year.

Laybourne built Nickelodeon into the first global television network to profit from selling advertising targeted towards children. Her programming approach, which made a point of talking to children as equals, built the tiny cable network, which had only five employees in 1980, into an $8 billion business.

Laybourne left Nickelodeon in 1996 to become president of Disney-ABC Cable Networks, guiding the growth and overseeing the programming of the Disney Channel and represented the corporate interests in Lifetime, A&E, E!, and The History Channel.

Up until her departure in 1996, Nickelodeon Magazine featured regular interviews with her under the heading Ask the Boss Lady.

In 1998, Laybourne left Disney and partnered with Oprah Winfrey and Carsey-Werner Productions to create Oxygen Media, a cable TV company dedicated to creating television and Internet programming for women. She also purchased three women-oriented online services from her former MTV boss, Robert W. Pittman.

Laybourne started the mentoring program, Global Women's Mentoring Walks, which pairs established and emerging women professionals to engage in mentoring partnerships in communities across the globe.

The executive currently sits on the boards of/is a member of:

9 Story Media Group, Board Member
Acumen Fund, Advisor
Betaworks, Board Member
Katapult, Chairman of the Board, Co-Founder
Springboard, Advisor
2007-present: Symantec, Board Member; Compensation Committee
1997-present: Vassar College, Board of Trustees; 2010-14: President of the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College (AAVC); Co-Chair of Vassar Presidential Search Committee
Vital Voices, Advisor

Over the course of her career, Laybourne has picked up many prestigious accolades, including:

Advertising Hall of Fame
Alliance for Women in Media, Genii Award
Annenberg Public Policy Center, Distinguished Lifetime Contribution to Children and Television Award
Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame
Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), Grand Tam Award
2004: The Cable Center, Hall of Fame
Creative Coalition, Spotlight Award
Entrepreneurs Club, Member
National Academy of Cable Programming, Governor’s Award
New York Women in Film & Television, Muse Award
2005: Paley Center for Media, She Made It
Sara Lee Corporation, Frontrunner Award
1996: The Hollywood Reporter, 50 Most Influential Women in the Entertainment Industry, rank #1
Time, 25 Most Influential people in America
Women in Cable Award
University of Missouri–Kansas City, Entrepreneur of the Year Award
Women in Communications (New York), Matrix Award for Broadcasting

Laybourne's work has also been featured in "Chapter 23: The Nickelodeon Experience" of Children & Television: Images in a Changing Sociocultural World (1993) by In Berry, Gordon L; Asamen, Joy K (Keiko) (eds.), published by Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Joining Laybourne in being inducted into the 25th Hall of Fame class are:

Seth MacFarlane - The five-time Emmy-winning performer has built an extensive career that includes accolades as a writer, director, producer, animator, actor, singer, and comedian (Family Guy, American Dad, The Orville).

Robert Iger - Chairman and CEO, the Walt Disney Company

Jay Sandrich - The five-time Emmy winner directed classic, beloved comedy series including: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Soap, Benson, The Cosby Show, The Golden Girls, and more.

Cicely Tyson - Honored with three Emmys, and multiple Emmy nominations, Tyson's acting career has spanned more than six decades.

"These contemporary performers, content creators and executives have been pioneers and innovators in so many aspects of television, and they have had a profound impact on their art and on our culture," said Frank Scherma, chairman and CEO of the Television Academy. "It's an honor to welcome this distinguished group of individuals into the Hall of Fame and to acknowledge their remarkable contributions, which continue to shape our industry."

The 2020 honorees join more than 146 individuals previously inducted into the Hall of Fame since its inception in 1984. The coveted honor has been bestowed upon performers, directors, producers, costume designers, writers, animators, executives, news reporters, and various other individuals whose work in television has no equal.

"These exceptional individuals have been major forces in television's evolution," said Rick Rosen, Hall of Fame Selection Committee chair. "It is our pleasure to honor them and celebrate their influence and impact on the growth of our industry across six decades of unprecedented change."

This year's committee includes Rick Rosen, head of television for William Morris Endeavor; Marcy Carsey, Emmy Award-winning producer; Bonnie Hammer, chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios; Peter Roth, president, Warner Bros. Television; Fred Silverman, founder of the Fred Silverman Company and former executive at ABC, CBS and NBC; and Nina Tassler, partner PatMa Productions.

About the Television Academy Hall of Fame

Founded by former Television Academy president John H. Mitchell, the Television Academy's Hall of Fame has honored on-camera legends and industry innovators. Past honorees include Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, Walter Cronkite, Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Oprah Winfrey, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Lorne Michaels, Ron Howard, Carl Reiner, Katie Couric, Shonda Rhimes, Bob Mackie, Mario Kreutzberger, Bob Barker, Bea Arthur, Regis Philbin, William Shatner, Bob Stewart, Candice Bergen, and the original cast of Saturday Night Live.

Click here for the complete list of Honorees.

A huge congrats to Geraldine, Seth, Robert, Jay and Cicely!

Update (1/29/2020) - From The Hollywood Reporter:

Kerry Washington Calls Bob Iger "Ultimate Disney Princess" as Disney Boss Urges Inclusive Hiring

The Disney chairman and CEO shared a stage with fellow TV Academy Hall of Fame inductees Cicely Tyson, Seth MacFarlane and Nickelodeon and Oxygen trailblazer Geraldine Laybourne.


Anne Sweeney, right, helped induct her friend and mentor Geraldine Laybourne, creator of Nickelodeon and co-founder Oxygen Media. Sweeney joked that she has the distinction of being "the worst assistant Geraldine Laybourne ever had." But Laybourne kept promoting her despite her administrative skills, thus beginning a lasting friendship, partnership and mentorship situation that has continued.

Kerry Washington positioned herself at the podium inside the TV Academy’s Saban Media Center just after 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night and admitted the task she had in front of her was a "daunting" one — to present a tribute for the Hall of Fame ceremony’s first of five inductees, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger.

"How in the space of five minutes do you summarize one of the most brilliant, prolific innovative disruptors in the history of television? Bob Iger is a visionary leader of almost mythic proportions. The man is a legend. His rise through the ranks is storied, his accomplishments are the stuff of legend. If there wasn't already a TV Hall of Fame, we have to invent one in order to induct Bob," said Washington, who then went on to track his rise through the Disney ranks and his many industry-shaking acquisitions — everything from ABC to ESPN and Pixar to 20th Century Fox.

Then came something in her speech that did seem truly daunting if not Herculean — Washington compared one of the industry’s most respected executives and most powerful men to ... a Disney princess?

"I know this may be controversial, but when you really think about it, Bob is kind of like the ultimate Disney princess. I don't want you to panic, I want you to hear me out," she explained, as audience members giggled and shuffled in their seats. "He began his career sweeping ashes out of the oven at Pizza Hut. If that is not a modern-day Cinderella, I don't know what is. Then eventually, just like Cinderella, things changed when he befriended a mouse. He set out to change his fate. Like Moana, he went beyond the reef. Like Tiana, he kissed a few frogs, professionally speaking, I mean. Not every new TV show is going to be Grey's Anatomy, but that's the cost of being bold — and it was worth it."

She also praised him for the bold move of putting a show — her show, Scandal — on ABC with a black woman as the lead of a network drama. "None of the other networks were doing it. No one had done it in almost 40 years but Bob and the team of leadership that he had empowered, many of them women and women of color — Anne Sweeney, Channing Dungey, Betsy Beers, Shonda Rhimes — they never wavered. Bob helped to create a culture in television, where we take risks, where we can be creative and innovative and step into our own greatness because he stepped into his."

She continued: "You see, like a true Disney princess, Bob doesn't choose the easy path. He follows the ones with thorns and traps, turbulence and waves because he wants what so many of us want: to tell good stories to tell them well, and to touch as many hearts as he can. … As a leader, he's made it possible for others to become the heroes of their own stories. Without him, I'm not sure that I ever would have learned to be the hero of my own story, both on screen and off. Thank you, Bob, for giving me dreams to dream and then making them come true."

Washington then welcomed Iger to the stage as the crowd of several hundred TV insiders responded with the night’s first standing ovation during a ceremony that also inducted acting legend Cicely Tyson, mogul Seth MacFarlane, TV director Jay Sandrich (absent due to illness; wife Linda accepted on his behalf), and Nickelodeon and Oxygen trailblazer Geraldine Laybourne. Iger saluted them all at the top of his remarks before thanking his many Disney bosses and those who paved the way for his success. He then turned his attention to the present.

"Now all of us Hall of Famers have certainly witnessed more profound and more incredible change — in fact, the complete rapid transformation of our industry, one I don't think any of us could have ever imagined. But as daunting as that all is, it's consistent with the sweeping changes that the world has seen. In a world that has swirled with change, I think it needs all of us more than ever because of anxiety and uncertainty and contempt seem to dominate the headlines and people's lives," Iger said. "And with that in mind and given televisions omnipresence in the world and the ability to reach billions of people every day, I believe we have more than just an opportunity — we have a responsibility to serve the vital needs of people and to make a profoundly positive difference in the world because the story we tell can provide a much needed escape and they also help people relate to one another, gain a deeper understanding, different perspectives and create a sense of connection and hopefully a sense of optimism, which is something that we at the Walt Disney company strive for every day.

Iger said that can be achieved through the telling of positive stories "that promote strong values, add inspiring role models, but by also being truth tellers."

Iger then closed his speech with a call to action that he said "should be" the number one priority: "Making sure that more women, minorities and other underrepresented groups have the opportunity to tell their stories both on screen and behind the camera so that they may play a bigger role and contribute even more meaningful ways to the quality and the resonance of the content that we create."

That spirit of inclusivity and opportunity was reflected in speeches by Laybourne (who broke boundaries by presenting content with girls at the center during her days at Nickelodeon) and by Tyson, who was brought the stage by Shonda Rhimes. Her boss at How to Get Away With Murder called her a "trailblazer of the highest order," someone who put personal integrity ahead of Hollywood success by refusing any character that "would degrade not only herself as an actress, but as she says, she also refused any character that would degrade women of color in general, because that could revert verbally into future generations."

In accepting, Tyson joked that she wasn’t sure of whom Rhimes was speaking. She also got laughs when she said that, at age 95, she sometimes looks in the mirror and asks herself, "Cicely, do you believe it?"

Someone who also got the crowd laughing was MacFarlane. "This is, this is easily the second-best thing that has happened to me this month," he quipped before adding, "Anytime I get to come out to North Hollywood, it is a treat. I got ripped off buying my first car here. It is truly an honor to be recognized by the television Hall of Fame alongside so many TV legends and Les Moonves."

The crowd responded to the jab at the disgraced CBS boss with groans to which MacFarlane responded, "Don’t look at me, man. You put him there." MacFarlane also made a joke that involved another honoree — Mr. Iger whose company bought Fox, home of many of MacFarlane’s creations, including Family Guy.

"I'm receiving this at a time when I've, I've passed another career milestone. Walt Disney's Family Guy has been on … Hey, Bob, I'm towing the fucking company line … has been on television for two decades."

In closing, MacFarlane credited his work ethic to one simple personal mandate.

"Comedy is all about the analysis of imperfection, and here, in a Twitter-ruled society where there is less and less tolerance for imperfection, one hopes that comedy still has a long future. I like to think it does. Ralph Kramden, Fred Flintstone, Archie Bunker, Henry Higgins, these were all characters that fascinated me because they were deeply, deeply imperfect and as a result, never boring," said MacFarlane, who was honored by Don Mischer. The legendary live TV producer called MacFarlane "one of the most prolific, multi-talented creative individuals" that he’s ever worked with. "I tried hard to continue that tradition. From Peter Griffin to Stan Smith to Ted to the crew on The Orville, these are all imperfect people doing imperfect things but they're all constantly trying to do better. That’s really my only motive as I go from project to project. I'm just trying to do better than I did last time. It really doesn't go too much deeper than that."

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More Nick: Nickelodeon Embarks on New Direction with its Biggest, Most Wide-Ranging Content Slate Ever!

Originally published: Tuesday, December 03, 2019.

H/T: Deadline, Variety; Additional sources: Wikipedia, Nickelodeon Wiki.
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