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 in 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 anybody else’s. I graduated from The University Of Notre Dame but I couldn’t afford to work as an intern–like I was doing for ABC sports at the time–so I had to find work at a bank. In the year while I was working at the bank, my sister wound up going to boarding school. One day out of the blue she calls me and says that her roommate’s dad is in the TV business. I asked her what kind of work he did but all she knew was that he was at NBC and was some kind of manager. I’m like, ‘oh that could be anything right?’ I asked her to find out her roommate’s dad’s name. Turns out, it was Bob Wright, the president of NBC at the time.
TheUrbanDaily: Hello, Opportunity meet Preparation…
Jubba: Yes! So I went with my mom to the next parent teacher conference and I met Bob and his wife and they pulled me into the [Page] Program. It was normally a four or five month waiting list but I got pushed up because the president recommended me. [Laughs] I skipped over the wait list and got in. That was the beginning of my television career. I was in the New York office in NBC 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 to work as a producer for NBC News – and 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: When I got to TV ONE there were several episodes that had been completed, including the DeBarge and Donnie Hathaway Phyllis Hyman and the Clark Sisters. So those were in the can and internally there was this really great respect for the show and the production company that does it, A. Smith. So when I took over my thought was ‘Ok, don’t screw it up, you already have this great show.’ It became about making the right selections for artists and continuing to push the producers to create a template for brilliant television. 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 the mainstream and given TV One new recognition in a way that you can’t always market. There was a lot of confusion when you heard about some of our other programs, [people saying] “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 that they don’t appreciate 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. We styled a vehicle and it has caught fire in such a way that it’s something the network is super proud of.
What’s challenging now is getting artists we want on the show to understand the true definition of Unsung. 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.