By Ben Grossman -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/23/2005 8:00:00 PM
In high school, Steve Mosko wasn't the most devoted student; his academic performance was unspectacular enough that when he went to the TV quiz show It's Academic one day, it was to watch his brainier friends compete. But it was while he was there that inspiration struck: “The second I walked onto that set, it hit me: This is what I wanted to do—be in the television business,” he remembers.
The 49-year-old president of Sony Pictures Television is a self-made man who has always been comfortable in the role of underdog. A Baltimore native, he studied communications at the University of Delaware, where he found himself interested in making the lacrosse team more than the Dean's List. As a senior in 1978, Mosko applied for an internship at WPHL Philadelphia. He got the internship coordinator on the phone and told her he couldn't wait to get into the business. She responded by asking for his grade-point average.
“I asked her if she meant overall or in my major,” he recalls. “She said 'overall,' so I told her it was a 2.5. Before I could say that my grades in my major were better, she cut me off, said I needed a 3.0 and slammed the phone down.”
Once college ended, Mosko grabbed his one suit, borrowed a pair of shoes and a car, and took a stack of résumés around to every TV station, radio station and ad agency in Baltimore. His break came when a receptionist at WBFF asked him what he wanted to do. When he replied “anything,” she suggested sales. Mosko had never been interested in selling but nonetheless ended up with a sales gig at WITH radio. “I had a business card, a desk, and was making $150 a week,” he says. “I was thrilled.”
He proved to be a natural and quickly moved on to bigger and better things. Mosko shifted to the sales department at WBFF until 1979 and then moved over to WMAR, where he worked in local sales for two more years before being promoted to local sales manager.
It was at WMAR that he would meet one of his mentors, as it was Arnie Kleiner—currently president and general manager of KABC Los Angeles—who hired him.
“He was just a very sharp guy,” Kleiner says. “He was bright, and clients liked him and believed him right away.”
Mosko was there until 1983, at which point he moved to Philadelphia to serve as general sales manager for WTAF. In 1987, he took over as VP and station manager of WPHL—the same station that had turned him down for an internship when he was in college.
One of his first points of business was to confront the woman who had rejected him nearly a decade before. “I said, 'You don't remember me, but as of today, we are changing the program,” he says. “'I want kids who are more diverse, who maybe aren't the greatest students in the classroom but work to pay their way through college and are more well-rounded.' That was an interesting turn of events.”
Mosko ran WPHL for four years, until another big break presented itself. In 1992, Sony, from which Mosko bought programming for the station, offered him a VP job in Los Angeles. So he and his wife, Marianne, packed up and moved across the country, thus beginning his long and successful stint at Sony. He was hired as VP of the western region for Columbia TriStar Television Distribution, eventually rising to president in 2000.
Mosko has been in his current role since 2001, overseeing all domestic television operations and distribution and cable and syndication product. That ranges from Wheel of Fortune and Seinfeld in syndication to FX's The Shield and CBS' King of Queens and lots more. He recently signed a contract extension and added oversight of domestic pay TV to his duties, too.
And despite his earlier aversion to schoolwork, Mosko is diligently studying new technologies to keep Sony ahead of the game.
“The biggest challenge is trying to figure out how we as an independent studio are able to take advantage of the fact that people are going to be consuming content from multiple platforms,” he says. “How we window our product, how we divvy up rights, and how we do it in a way where we enhance the product.”
True to his outsider nature, Mosko embraces Sony's independent status. “We are not constrained by owning a network or having traditional platforms to protect,” he says. “I think we're much more open to doing new and interesting deals and being much more creative because we are not beholden to any particular distribution outlets.”
And after bouncing around the country in pursuit of the next golden opportunity, Mosko is happy he has found a place to hang his hat: “I never expected to work at one company for almost 14 years. I don't take this for granted for one day.”
Despite the great leaps he has made, Mosko's colleagues say he hasn't abandoned his humble nature. “I've never met anybody who didn't like the guy,” Kleiner says. “It doesn't matter if you are the most successful or least successful person in the room; he's not going to treat you any differently. He just has that way about him.”
We knew Steve Mosko when he was about 17 and a part-time custodian at our church in Bel Air, MD. He was a singularly nice young man who was as comfortable talking with adults as with folks his own age. We found this article while searching for info on the recent passing of his parents. Steve, if this reaches you, know that Grace and Brint Cooper of Colonial Acres send our best wishes.
Brint Cooper - 8/14/2009 4:55:05 PM EDT
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