You can learn a lot from your siblings. Jubba Seyyid, TV One’s Senior Director of Programming and Production studied television at the University of Notre Dame and graduated in 1992. But like many graduates, finding employment in his field of study did not come easy. Interning at ABC wasn’t paying the bills so he was forced to take a bank job to make ends meet. But doing a favor for his sister, who was attending boarding school, lead to an unlikely connection that would alter his career path forever.
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Now Seyyid is overseeing the growth of TVONE ushering new hit series like “Unsung,” “Ultimate Merger” and “R&B Divas,” which premiers its second season on Wednesday May 1st. TheUrbanDaily.com sat down with our sibling (TheUrbanDaily.com and TV One and both owned by Radio One, Inc.) to talk about his journey to success and the new “realities” of television programming.
TheUrbanDaily: How did you get started in television production?
Jubba: Well I went to school for it first of all, and my story is as unique as everybody else’s I suppose. I graduated school but I couldn’t afford to work as an intern–like I was doing-for ABC sports–so I had to go work at a bank. In the year while I was working at the bank, my sister wound up going to boarding school. Me and my mom drove her up to the boarding school in Connecticut, and she called me and said ‘You know my roommate, her dad is in TV, you know, maybe you can meet him one day he could help you.’ I said what does he do? She said he’s doing something at NBC. So I’m like, Does what? She’s like, he’s some kind of manager and I’m like ohh that could be anything right? I said what’s her dad’s name? Turns out his name was Bob Wright, Bob Wright was the president of NBC at the time.
TheUrbanDaily: Hello, Opportunity meet Preparation…
Jubba: I got in the car, the next parent teacher conference I went with my mom and I met Bob and his wife and they pulled me into the [Page] Program, which you know was like a four or five month waiting list and I got pushed up, you know, because the president recommended me. [Laughs] skipped over the wait list and got in. That was the beginning of my television career. The Page program, some people are familiar with it, in New York or L.A. but I was in the New York office in NBC in New York and that’s where I began my networking. So my first actual job in production was as a Page and then once that program was done I went and worked at NBC News. I was the youngest news producer that they ever had.
TheUrbanDaily: Incredible. Now I’ve had a lot of fun watching “Unsung.”Tell me about the success of this show and what it means to your audience to have a show like this on the air.
Jubba: Well, when I got to TV ONE there were four episodes that had been completed, the first four you know Debarge and Donnie Hathaway, the Gospel show… So those four were in the can and those four episodes were there, and internally there was this really great respect for the show and the production company that does it which is A. Smith. So when I took over the show you know it was like ‘ok, don’t screw it up,’ you already have this great show in the can. So it became about making the right selections for artists and continuing to push the producers to create a template for brilliant television and a brilliant documentary every hour. And so there was a little bit of pressure certainly to make sure that I maintained what my predecessor had done in managing that show.
I know that musicians all across the board, young and old watch “Unsung.” It is something to be really proud of. It’s certainly influenced mainstream in a way for the network that’s sort of given TV One new recognition in a way that you can’t always market for yourself. The show itself is one of the few shows a couple of years ago that really identified TV One. There’s a lot of confusion when you hear about some of our other programs, [people say] “Oh yeah I heard of that, is that on VH1? Is that show on another network?” They weren’t exactly sure, but when you heard “Unsung” people knew that was on TV One so it became a really great connector to the network. I’ve never heard any critic tell me or I’ve never read anywhere that they’ve said they don’t appreciate or understand how important the show is for artists who are traditionally unsung and those whose stories have never been told.
That’s what’s key with “Unsung,” it’s that we’re telling the stories of these artists whose stories have never been told. It’s not necessarily just about artists who are traditionally, by definition, ‘unsung.’ It’s really about telling these stories because you’re not going to get them in any other venue. You’re not going to hear these stories on “Behind the Music,” you’re not going to necessarily hear these stories on PBS. So we styled a vehicle and it has caught fire in such a way that it’s something the network is super proud of.
And sometimes, what we’re running into now is the challenge of artists that we want to do and some of them still not understanding the definition of the show. They think that if I approach an artist and I say we’d love for you to do the show they’ll go, “I’m not unsung.” They hear the traditional definition of the word ‘unsung’ thinking that it means they’re over and that’s not what it means at all, it really just means your story hasn’t been told.