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Student of TV LearnsTo Forge His Own Path | @andreamorabito

Chris Sloan’s former colleagues describe him as a lifelong student of television, and in his case, the lesson started at a young age.

Now Sloan, 44, is owner and president of 2C Media, which produces Travel Channel’s Airport 24/7 Miami, Animal Planet’s Swamp Wars and CMT’s Danger Coast in addition to doing promotion and design work for networks. But his first TV job was at 13, filming city council meetings for a local cable access channel, where he discovered archives of what was then called Broadcasting magazine and became probably its youngest subscriber (his first issue was sent to him at summer camp).

Sloan wanted to work in TV since he was 6 and his Norman, Okla., household was one of the first to get cable television. He was there to watch CNN and MTV sign on and idolized CNN founder Ted Turner and NBC programming whiz Brandon Tartikoff. At 12, he built mock TV stations out of Legos to compete against each other, staying up all night to record promos on audiocassette.

His first paying job was with a fishing show on ESPN when he was 16; he then attended the University of Tulsa but dropped out after a year because it conflicted with his work schedule. At 23, he got his big break editing promos at NBC, which led to a spot as creative director of NBC-2000, a unit led by marketing veteran John Miller and Vince Manze that created original content to run with show credits.

“He was a very interesting, quirky guy, very smart, creative, and sometimes a little offbeat,” says Miller, now CMO of NBCUniversal Television Group and head of the NBC Sports Agency. “It required somebody to be thinking a little outside the box, and he fit right into that group of crazies we had at NBC-2000.”

Sloan has always been attracted to alternative projects, so when Barry Diller launched his City Vision format at WAMI with a focus on local programming, Sloan jumped at the chance to run its marketing and return to Miami, where he lived before joining NBC.

“It was my favorite job ever,” Sloan says. “I learned something about myself, which was that I was best at doing entrepreneurial things in the context of a big organization.”

When Diller sold the USA Broadcasting Network stations, Sloan, still chasing his childhood goal of running a network, was given the opportunity to head alternative programming for USA Network. Since it was the early days of reality TV, it was a good job for someone with no programming experience. “He was the kind of guy who was in your office every day with 10 new ideas,” says Viacom Entertainment Group president Doug Herzog, president of USA Network at the time. “He brought a marketing and promo background, but he had a great understanding of what a TV show needed to be, should be, had to be to work.”

After a few years of putting on shows like Nashville Star, Sloan took a similar job at TLC and eventually got his dream job running reality fare for CBS—but only lasted at the network a few months in an experience he calls “humiliating.”

“I wasn’t a good fit,” Sloan says. “People ask how long I worked there, I say ‘I worked there for lunch.’” The setback made him take a hard look at how to play to his strengths; in 2005 he started 2C Media with his wife, a TV producer.

Starting his own company allowed Sloan to both reinvent himself and return to his beloved Miami, where he enjoys boating, fishing, diving and kayaking. In addition to his TV work, Sloan runs website to feed his aviation hobby (he named one of his children Calder, after a plane). Working for himself, Sloan finally has his dream job, though it wasn’t the one he expected.

“Until a year before I started the company, I never set out to work for myself or be entrepreneurial. I always wanted to run a bigger enterprise,” he says. “And then I realized they’d be crazy to let me do it.”