5 Leadership Lessons With Larry Namer the President/CEO of Metan Global Entertainment Group
“I think we need a global health media vehicle or network that is designed to educate and inform people around the globe about certain health issues and then presents them with alternatives of different kinds. It can have Western or Eastern medicine, homeopathic, Ayurvedic, etc. People should know the issues and the treatments open to them and then best decide what fits into their life best.”
I had the pleasure to interview Larry Namer the President/CEO of Metan Global Entertainment Group. An entertainment industry veteran with over 45 years professional experience in cable television, live events and new media, Larry is a founding partner of Metan Global Entertainment Group (MGEG) www.metanglobal.com, a venture created to develop and distribute entertainment content and media specifically for Chinese speaking audiences in China and abroad. MGEG recently launched the inspirational competition series The Bruce Lee Project in China, in conjunction with Company Films (co-owned by Keanu Reeves and Stephen Hamel), Bruce Lee Entertainment, LLC (Shannon Lee’s production company) and Benaroya Pictures. Mr. Namer was involved in creating the series’ original format and currently oversees sales and development for the project. The company recently launched the MGEG Film Fund I and serves as managing partner. Mr. Namer is the co-founder of E! Entertainment Television, a company now valued at over $3.5 billion USD, and the creator of several successful companies in the United States and overseas. Among those companies are Comspan Communications that pioneered Western forms of entertainment in the former Soviet Union and Steeplechase Media that served as the primary consultant to Microsoft’s MiTV for developing interactive TV applications. His vision and direction garnered VCTV several Emmy and Cable ACE award nominations, as well as recognition by Forbes magazine as the national model for local cable television programming. In 1989, he was awarded the prestigious President’s Award from the National Cable Television Association. He was honored with the “Outstanding Contribution to Asian Television Award” at the 19th Asian Television Awards in Singapore, and most recently was presented with the International Media Legacy Award at the 2017 Elite Awards Foundation Gala and the Hollywood Lifetime Achievement Award in Entertainment at the 2018 Hollywood Tribute Awards in Celebration of the 90th annual Academy Awards®.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “back story”?
I started in the media business as an underground splicer in the sewers of Manhattan for a company then called Sterling Manhattan Cable TV. The company was eventually bought by Time Inc. and I rose through the ranks of the technical operating departments (construction, service installation, etc.) and eventually left ten years later to go to Los Angeles as Vice President and General Manager of Valley Cable. That was the first 61 channel two-way system built in the United States and it was there that I rounded out my skill set to include programming, marketing and finance. It was there that I first started thinking of starting something on my own and then met Alan Mruvka in 1984. Together we came up with the idea for E! Entertainment TV (first called Movietime). After three and a half years of begging for some start-up money, we finally met a Wall Street investor who put in a tiny bit of what was needed, however, with no alternatives we launched anyway and became an “instant success.” As they say, the rest is history…
We know that it is not always easy for a foreigner to do business in China. Can you share an interesting story about a challenge that you faced, and how you overcame it?
Well, we realized early on that most Western companies made the mistake of thinking China was like Eastern Europe and Russia and everyone wanted to come to America and be American. Those companies were way off the mark. Chinese folks wanted to learn about the West and our culture, but they did not necessarily want to be Americans. They were quite happy and proud to be Chinese. So we decided that everything we did must be in Mandarin language and designed to appeal to a Chinese audience, not just tweaked a little from what works in the US. It took a while for that to sink in and then think about how to take my years of experience and apply them to creating uniquely Chinese content.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Yes, we have a few TV and digital platform projects, as well as a big feature film. We are shooting a TV show in China for the US TV market designed to help US audiences understand the myths of modern China. It focuses on the new and exciting things we see in environmental efforts, food, fashion, product innovation, etc. and shows that China has truly moved into the modern age. Our big film effort is titled “Empress,” that tells the story of the first woman ruler of China. It’s being written by Ron Bass, the Academy Award winning writer of “Rain Man,” and gives this fascinating character a very modern take on her life and challenges. It’s really about a woman’s struggle to make it in a very male dominated society.
What advice would you give to other business owners to help their employees to thrive?
It’s key to learn Chinese business customs and not just think that the Chinese will adopt anything you bring from the West. They have their own way of doing things and their own business protocols. If you try to interpret everything with Western standards, you are bound for trouble
Pay attention to the 25 to 40 year olds. They have the disposable income and shape the new digital culture. Money in China is in the hands of much younger people than you would find in the West. They consume media and products very differently than Westerners. They are on their chosen path and you cannot change it, so it’s best to pay attention to their needs and adapt your methods to suit
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Way back when I was at Manhattan Cable, it was owned by Time Inc. (before Time Warner) and we had a president named Nick Nicolas. By watching him, I learned that it was ok to be tough and demanding, as long as you were always realistic and fair. That’s has stuck with me throughout my career.
What do you think are the new untapped markets that may become the next “big thing”?
Clearly China has been leading the charge into the digital age, and with it are incredible gains in digital commerce. Even today you can do almost anything on your cell phone. It’s gotten to the point where not only has cash become obsolete, but you can see the rapid demise of credit cards. You can live on just your WeChat app now
We keep hearing about the “Trade War”. What are your thoughts about it? Given the unknowns, how do you plan to pivot?
Quite honestly, I don’t get it and can’t figure out the logic. Here we are placing sanctions on Russia trying to force economic hardship to force reforms. So what do we do? We put tariffs on China, so they retaliate by cancelling billions of dollars of soy bean orders from our farmers. Instead they give those orders to the Russians. So we have now driven several billion dollars of revenue into Russia, while hurting our own farmers at the same time. Doesn’t seem very logical to me.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started”?
Chinese folks want to learn about the West, but they don’t necessarily want to be us or move here. When you ask someone “do you understand” and they shake their head, it is most likely being polite rather than acknowledging that they do. Consumers are much younger than in the West, so pay attention to who is buying what. In LA, you would see a woman 40-plus wearing the latest Chanel outfits. In China, it’s a 25 year old woman. Asian culture is more followed than Western culture. They watch and listen not only to Chinese artists, but also to Korean and Japanese. There is a huge movement toward individualism. Everyone that is young is looking to be their own entity and have a distinct personality.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Not all of your ideas are going to be genius. Learn how to evaluate your projects objectively and cut loose when necessary. For example, I was part of the group that launched a video portal before YouTube. It was called television.com and seemed like such a great idea, but the technology wasn’t what we needed it to be and it was very expensive. It took a year before we said “oops” and killed it off.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think we need a global health media vehicle or network that is designed to educate and inform people around the globe about certain health issues and then presents them with alternatives of different kinds. It can have Western or Eastern medicine, homeopathic, Ayurvedic, etc. People should know the issues and the treatments open to them and then best decide what fits into their life best.
Originally published at medium.com