Tony Orsten is an award-winning, innovative television director, creative businessman and successful chief executive. Orsten has worked in the UK and international media industry for four decades and is an avid supporter of and investor in content creation across all media.
After working in Europe in TV and Radio with the British Forces Broadcasting Service he returned to the UK for the launch of the breakfast TV station TV-am in 1982, where as programme director, he was instrumental in shaping the format of Good Morning Britain and developing the children’s character Roland Rat. Then as a senior director at London Weekend Television he won a BAFTA award for Originality, awarded to Network 7, a breakthrough TV format which put ‘serious’ television on the agenda for youth audiences. First Aids, the UK’s only peak time attempt at creating awareness of the AIDS crisis to heterosexual 16-34 year olds, won him an International Monitor Award as best director. Orsten then went on to re-launch LWT’s production services division as a commercial facilities business in 1988, specifically responsible for Film, Single Camera and Post Production. He created a vision for the company, building new facilities, hiring new staff and retraining existing individuals to work in a fully costed business environment.
In 1990 Orsten was appointed Managing Director of Chrysalis Television, part of the Chrysalis group plc. During his time there he grew the business substantially with new commissions and commercial tie-ups with sporting events such as Italian Football on C4, ITV Snooker and IndyCar racing on ITV where he secured one of the UK’s first network advertiser funded programmes. Orsten then joined Planet 24 to launch the Big Breakfast, one of the most influential live TV shows of the nineties. He directed the programme through the first two years at the height of its popularity.
In 1993 he launched a cable-only channel, Wire TV, the style and format of which set the trend for the new breed of channels on Sky and cable. In 1994 Janet Street- Porter asked him to act as launch director for Live TV, the first attempt at creating a new form of spontaneous and live TV channel.
In 1995, Orsten was appointed Director of Programming and then Managing Director for a brand-new channel to be launched by Viacom’s Paramount Pictures – the first time a Hollywood studio had created a general entertainment channel outside the US. The channel launched as The Paramount Channel on Sky and cable. Over the next year, Orsten re-launched the channel as Paramount Comedy. The key to the channel’s on-going success was the development and creating of new original programming including Dom Joly, Leigh Francis, Sasha Baron Cohen, David Walliams & Matt Lucas, Simon Pegg & Jessica Stevenson and Armstrong & Miller. All these now well-known UK actors/writers/performers were given their first exposure on Paramount Comedy.
In 2005, Viacom’s MTV Networks International offered Orsten a new, expanded, role to develop and launch new entertainment channels outside the US. As Senior VP and Managing Director he oversaw channels on behalf of Comedy Central International. He launched channels in Spain, Italy, Poland and in the free TV market of Germany, all with a central core of local production.
In September 2006, Orsten joined the founders of Skype to develop and launch Joost, the world’s first broadcast quality television platform on the Internet. He ran the UK content team from the Joost London offices.
In November 2007, Orsten was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Abu Dhabi Media Zone, known as twofour54 – the first content creation and media support organisation in the Arab world. He also held the position of Executive Director of the Media Zone Authority, a department of the Abu Dhabi government. He reported to the chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak who is a member of the Executive Council of the government of Abu Dhabi, the CEO of Mubadala Development Corporation and Chairman of Manchester City Football Club.
At the end of April 2012, Orsten returned to the UK with his family and was appointed to the board of twofour54. He relinquished his Chief Executive role to Noura Al Kaabi, who he had mentored as his successor, since joining the company. Orsten was then asked to act as an advisor to the Media Zone Authority and to sit on the Authority’s Board Audit committee which he did until May 2015.
Orsten was CEO of The Imaginarium Studios Limited from 2013-16. The company was the leading creator of content in the Motion Capture/CG arena. While in office, The Imaginarium created a new Broadcast TV series, two feature films for general release, a narrative based video game and a unique live motion capture performance of Shakespeare's The Tempest as well as providing creative services for the Star Wars, Avengers and Planet of the Apes franchises.
Currently Orsten is working on personal projects which include several media/tech start-ups, non-executive directorships and his advisory and mentoring posts.