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Larry Namer Co-Founder E! Television: Exclusive Interview

Larry Namer

Celebrity Interview: Larry Namer has exemplified excellence in Cable programming for 4 decades.   He started as a cable splicer and rose to become the President and co-founder of his own Cable network, E! Entertainment Television.  Launching the careers of Greg Kinnear and Julie Moran on E! And now Eric Zuley on ‘Hello! Hollywood’.

Aside from his penchant to adding exclamation points to his projects, Mr. Namer has regularly damned market research and went on pure instinct, while creating highly successful programming in foreign markets.  His first foray into foreign markets was Russia.  Knowing that the citizens of Russia were destitute and looking for some pure escapism, after the fall of the U.S.S.R.   He found just what they were looking for in ‘Santa Barbara’, the popular American Soap Opera.  The Russian people loved the show, it became a must watch show and Russia’s first American programming since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Richard:  “You started out in lower levels of the cable industry in its infancy and worked your way up to Vice President, then President.

Larry Namer: “I started as a cable splicer, underground in Manhattan.  I was the Director of Corporate Development for Time Warner Cable before I went to Valley Cable as the Vice President and general manager of that cable system in Los Angeles that covers the Fernando Valley.  Then started E!, I was indeed the President.

Richard:  “Do you foresee yourself going further in it from a splicer, or did you realize while you were in it, that you could handle it?”

Larry Namer: “Well when I started from kind of a humble beginning, so I never quite where it would end up.  I always kind of felt that I would work my way up, where I was.  But no not at that time, the thought that one day I would start a TV network that would be around the world, never occurred to me.”

Richard:  “How did you decide to go into Russia?”

Larry Namer: “I was still at E! and a friend of mine who was a lawyer had some clients that were doing some merchant banking while it was still The Soviet Union and he asked me if I would go with his client and look at a deal that was being proposed to them and tell them if I thought it was a legitimate deal.  I thought it would be cool to go visit the Soviet Union.”

His latest endeavor is the Metan Development Group, which has a complete focus on China.   He has a deep love for the Chinese people and their culture.  He has long held a fascination with celebrities, celebrity news and culture and has begun the show ‘Hello! Hollywood’ to help bring Western Celebrity news to the Far East.

Richard: “When came time for you push into the China, where did it come from?  Was that instinctive thing or a series of connection that you felt you wanted to take care of?”

Larry Namer:  “It was instinctive thing, Five years ago I was actually invited by a government agency to come there and help work with young Chinese television executives, helping them with the transformation that was happening there.  Moving more towards commercial television…teaching and recognized the opportunity and fell in love with china and Beijing which is my favorite in the world.  Clearly this was a place for an independent entrepreneur like me.

Once the show was on the air, Larry took to the internet via a website and message boards to help fine tune their programming. He notably avoided market analysis from Beijing; the city Metan group is headquartered in.  When asked about this, he said “…it is kind of like having a TV project but realizing that you may not get New York and LA on day one.  Does our project have enough viability to sustain long enough to get into New York and LA? The same time of thing with Beijing. We are not getting into Beijing on first day and first show so let’s come up with projects that can be launched in other places around the country and eventually make its way to Beijing and which is what we did”.  My analysis says, that the occupants of a large city are the migrants from the smaller cities.  Focusing on the smaller markets and their cultural, sociological, and political ideology’s, would create programming attractive to the melting pot culture of Beijing.

There were special considerations when dealing with presenting Western Celebrity culture to China.  They needed a more detailed presentation with more back stories.  I asked Mr. Namer about the reason for these special considerations and he said “The Chinese people have not grown up with the same things that we have grown up with so they need context and backstory.”   The Chinese philosophy and sociality is based on thousands of years of existence. Most Chinese rituals go back further than America’s founding.  A culture so steeped in history is bound to want to know more than the just what happened in the past week.

Richard: “What brought your attention to Eric Zuley?”

Larry Namer: “Well, obviously I have an interest in pop culture, Hollywood, movie stars and all those things that made me come up with my idea for E!. I saw Eric (Zuley) around town, hustling his butt off, doing a lot of the things that we did to get E! off the ground in the early days.  I am a consummate entrepreneur myself.  I realized he was in an area we like, and he is a hardworking guy and he is busting his butt and is giving back and doing all the good things so we figured we would be supportive as we could be.”

Richard:  What is Eric’s EZ way movement to you?

Larry Namer: “it is Eric’s way of building his modern day network of Hollywood content and Hollywood people.  He is taking advantage of all the media platforms available.  It is a multi-platform approach to marketing all things Hollywood.”

Richard: “Your gut feeling about Eric’s appeal in China is one thing but what were the actual reasons he tested so well in the Chinese market?”

Larry Namer: “Eric has a very genuine way about him, First he is out there and everything going on (in Hollywood) he has hand in… he represents young Hollywood and young pop culture.  I felt that Chinese culture could relate to him and his way of telling stories.”

Richard:” Have you learned Mandarin yet?”

Larry Namer: “I am in the middle of learning it… it’s not easy.”

Richard: “Are you pressing Eric Zuley to learn it?

Larry Namer:  “If he wants to be a big deal in China…He will have to.”

Eric Zuley’s segment on “Hello! Hollywood” will be available on 270 million broadcast TVs with potential of 600 million people. It will be broadcast in six cities on the North American continent including: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver, Canada.  The Metan Development Group has partnered with Chinese internet portal, TenCent, which has 200 million registered users.

Thank you Mr. Namer for your time and consideration.  Richard Shouse

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