NEW YORK (Reuters) - As the former head of MTV Networks International, Bill Roedy drew on his military career to build a youth entertainment business across 165 countries with an audience of millions — and he had fun along the way.
He says there have many highlights during his 22-years at MTV — which he left in January — including: “Singing with Bono and Bob Geldof in a Tokyo karaoke bar at 5 a.m., me dressed as a policeman and Bono dressed as a nurse.”
Roedy reflects on his career building what he described as arguably the most distributed brand in the world, owned by Viacom Inc, in his new memoir “What Makes Business Rock,” which was published this month by Wiley.
“I worked very hard to respect and reflect local cultures, which means every channel is different and that was quite unusual back then and it still is,” he told Reuters of creating 175 channels from Australia to China to Germany to Brazil.
“Everything was sensitized to the local audience and that was really the key factor I think to our success,” he said. “We play rap in the Middle East ... but the lyrics are not angry street culture, they’re more about, I love my mother.”
In the Middle East, Pakistan and Indonesia MTV airs the Muslim call to prayer five times a day. On the other hand, Roedy says he has also enjoyed “bringing ‘Beavis and Butthead’ to Russia and ‘Jersey Shore’ to Italy.”
Roedy spent 11 years in the U.S. military, serving in the Vietnam War and several years at NATO nuclear missile bases in Italy, before attending Harvard Business School and then discovering his passion for television working at a local Boston station. He moved on to HBO before joining MTV.
“I designed the (MTV Networks International) organization from lessons really learned in the military which is, even though we got big, keep the units small and close to the enemy, in this case the competition,” he said.
Along with celebrities, Roedy has also met dozens of heads of states, including former Cuban President Fidel Castro, former South African President Nelson Mandela, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
He has negotiated in dozens of languages in various political systems and through an array of government regulations — a job he says was made a little easier with MTV’s charitable work, primarily fighting the spread of HIV.
“The bottom line is that for the bottom line, doing good in the world is good for business,” Roedy wrote in his book. “I have little doubt that in many countries MTV’s proven record of engagement without pushing a political agenda made it a lot easier for us to receive government approval.”
Roedy plans to continue his HIV/AIDS work with groups including the Staying Alive Foundation, which educates youth, amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research, and the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
“Using the knowledge and experiences I’ve acquired in 30 years of working in global media, I will continue to speak for those with less voice and less opportunity,” he wrote.
Editing by Jill Serjeant