News Column

From Bel Air to 'Breaking Bad,' Harford native soars as head of Sony TV

August 9, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 09--Steve Mosko was not exactly the best student when he graduated The John Carroll School in 1974.

In fact, "a guidance counselor told me I probably wasn't college material," Mosko, who's since become the head of a major television studio, recalled.

Nor did he initially seem destined for anything too ambitious, spending his high-school summers working as a janitor at the school and the Bel Air United Methodist Church, as well as putting in time at Friendly's at Harford Mall.

"I had every lousy job known to man, but we all paid our way through high school and we paid our way through college," the Bel Air native said.

Fast forward a couple of years, and Mosko was indeed in college at the University of Delaware, where he first got a taste of working for radio stations in Philadelphia and, ultimately, television.

Fast forward a few more decades, to 2013.

"Breaking Bad," on AMC, is one of the most successful TV shows in recent memory. Sony Pictures Television grows worldwide, expanding channels into 840 million households.

The man behind it all? A certain former John Carroll janitor, now at the helm of one of the biggest television studios in Hollywood.

Mosko, 57, was last interviewed by The Aegis in 2004, about 12 years after he joined Sony Pictures Television as vice president of the western region for Columbia TriStar Television Distribution.

It was also two years later that his job title became a little shorter: President. Of all of Sony Pictures Television.

What has changed since then?

"All of our U.S. business has just gone through the roof," Mosko said last week, by phone from California.

Besides the 124 channels in more than 159 countries, Sony Pictures Television oversees GSN, cable's game show network, has produced prime-time series like "Community" for NBC, "Damages" for DIRECTV, "Necessary Roughness" for USA, "Hatfields & McCoys" for History Channel and "Justified" for FX.

The company also produces syndicated shows like "Wheel of Fortune," "Jeopardy!" "The Young and the Restless" and "Days of Our Lives."

Perhaps the studio's biggest show, however, is entering its last season: "Breaking Bad," about a chemistry teacher who turns to selling methamphetamine after he is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Mosko said he is glad his company picked up the show despite its odd premise.

"When we first did the show, it was kind of an interesting show because a lot of people wouldn't go near it," he recalled.

"It's been hugely successful in the U.S., here on AMC, and it's as big a hit around the world," he said. "It has some of the most loyal fans I have ever seen in a TV show."

The final season starts this Sunday, and Mosko said he is thrilled with where it stands.

"It absolutely is going out on top and creatively, it's at its peak, and it's very rare that that happens," he said. "It all worked out just right."

Mosko declined to disclose anything that might happen on the show, but promised: "Everyone who is even the slightest fan of the show will not be disappointed."

Even with "Breaking Bad" coming to a close, Mosko does not seem to have much to worry about.

Sony TV plans to soon put out the shows "The Blacklist" on NBC and "The Goldbergs" on ABC, as well as the syndicated version of "The Queen Latifah Show."

All the talk about newly successful platforms like Netflix and the speculation about television's future has Mosko excited, not nervous.

For him, it only means more opportunities to get his shows into the hands of new audiences.

Sony Pictures Television is now the international distributor of "House of Cards," the Netflix hit filmed largely in Harford County.

"It's just another place to sell programming," Mosko said about Netflix.

And while the shows are produced in the U.S., a "big chunk" of SPT's revenue comes from overseas, he noted, explaining: "Everything is global."

"The reality is, people are watching more TV than ever before," Mosko continued. "We are living in the golden age of television. There is more quality programming than ever before."

Companies like Netflix have only helped him, Mosko said.

"I think it's added to people's viewing and it's been good for the business," he said.

Perhaps more importantly for him, Mosko noted, a show like "Breaking Bad" will go down as one of the greatest of all time.

"I feel very lucky to be part of it," he said. "It's just a great time to be in the television business, because if you go back... the number of channels available, the quality available... it's so much better today than it ever was."

Did he ever imagine, as a boy growing up in Bel Air's Colonial Acres neighborhood, that he would one day be on top of the television world?

"No," Mosko said with a laugh, after a short pause.

He remembered his time growing up in Harford County and working for a while for WBFF in Baltimore as a sales manager.

Now, Mosko talks about his success in front of high school and college students, and came back to talk at John Carroll's graduation several years ago.

The theme of his talk was: "Don't let anybody else tell you what you can or can't do."

"As a kid growing up in Bel Air, it never even crossed my mind that this would ever happen," Mosko, who was one of seven children, recalled. "That didn't stop me from doing the best I could."

He nevertheless believes his hard work, including the time he put in playing football and lacrosse in high school, took him to greater heights.

"All those values my parents taught me in Bel Air, believe me, it paid off," he said.

Mosko's parents, Charlotte and Elmer Mosko, died within a week of each other in 2009, their deaths marked in Bel Air at St. Margaret Church.

Since then, Mosko almost never returns to Harford County, although he said two of his sisters still live here.

Mosko continues to keep a busy personal schedule -- he gets up at four every morning, does Pilates and plays golf every weekend -- and spends time with his wife, Marianne, and three children: Matt, Mallory and Bryan.

He also keeps in touch with his now-more-scattered family in Bel Air, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey.

The values he learned growing up in Harford are the ones he would urge anyone following in his footsteps to remember.

"Never forget where you came from," he said, sounding a little more grim. "People can get lost out here."

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(c)2013 The Aegis (Bel Air, Md.)

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