Marc Chalom

Alumni Profile

A Made-for-TV Biography

The life of Marc Chalom, BA’73 (T-H), is a tale fit for a biography special on A&E: born overseas; lived in Europe; came to the United States; spread his wings at Fairleigh Dickinson and Channel 13; became a prominent television and Internet executive; and now is raising triplets. Oh yeah, and along the way he also created the acclaimed “Biography” series, which is now the longest-running, single-topic series on television.

In the early 1980s, Chalom was vice president of production operations and on-air productions for Hearst-ABC. It was then, he says, that the series was born of necessity. “In the early stages of cable, audiences were small and programs from the failed networks were picked up by the remaining ones,” he explains. “Hearst-ABC picked up the remnants of documentaries from the Entertainment Channel; we needed to do something with the programs we had sitting on the shelves and started airing the biographies of Kennedy, Hitler, FDR and Churchill. We asked Peter Graves to do the introductions, and a series was born.”

This blend of energy and inventiveness makes Chalom a fascinating biography himself. Born in Egypt, he is the oldest of eight children. His father, Mayer Chalom, came from France and moved the family to various countries. “We grew up speaking French but eventually picked up several more languages, including Italian and Greek,” says Chalom. In 1960, they moved to the United States where, explains Chalom, “I learned English from watching TV. I would literally watch all day until the snow came on at sign-off.”

Having mastered English as a child, Chalom was able to learn business at an early age. “My mom and dad had beach property in Maine not far from the Canadian border, and I started peddling beach clothing, cameras and electronics to Canadian tourists. By the time I went to college, I had so much business experience that I did not need to earn a degree in business,” says Chalom.

Chalom’s parents proved his best teachers. “They taught me how to think for myself; they taught me life is generated through thought. My father believed that every problem has a practical solution,” explains Chalom.

“Dr. Len Saunders (head of FDU’s Honors Program) helped secure an internship for me at the Juilliard Theater at Lincoln Center.”
— Marc Chalom

To pay tribute to his father, Chalom established two scholarships at FDU in memory of Mayer Chalom. One scholarship supports a student in electronic filmmaking, and the other is for a student attending Wroxton College. “My father was a staunch supporter of education and independent thinking. The scholarships are a way to honor my father’s beliefs and reward students who embody those beliefs,” says Chalom.

Chalom attended FDU’s Wroxton campus for a semester and also was enrolled in the Honors Program. “Dr. Len Saunders (head of FDU’s Honors Program) helped secure an internship for me at the Juilliard Theater at Lincoln Center (New York City).” Chalom, who studied theater and communications at FDU, recalls the University as his “laboratory and playground. I directed a number of plays at Becton Theater; I loved the energy inherent in the theater.”

In graduate school at New York University, Chalom videotaped plays performed in the school theater. “This eventually made me realize that I wanted to concentrate on directing. After graduation, I landed a job as a ‘gofer’ at Channel 13 in New York City,” he says. The entry-level position allowed Chalom to eventually work on quality programming such as “Dance in America” and “The MacNeil-Lehrer Report.” He adds, “Working in various positions — production assistant, location scout, location manager and production manager — made me realize how creative you can be with little money.”

“My goal is to create Internet video and distribution channels by making them a stimulating experience that attracts and rewards visitors to the Web.”
— Marc Chalom

Chalom’s creative juices were further enriched when he worked on “The Children’s Television Workshop.” He then moved onto the Hearst-ABC position and later became vice president of production and programming for Café USA, a company that produced television programming for malls nationwide. That venture led to his latest career move as vice president of programming for, an online video media company that is a subsidiary of the Ampex Corporation. He is responsible for establishing a new group of focused-interest Internet video channels that will complement the company’s existing affiliates. “My goal is to create Internet video and distribution channels by making them a stimulating experience that attracts and rewards visitors to the Web. We want to capture the ‘wow’ factor on the Internet,” he says. “We hope to appear on multiple sites and continue to create new programming with the creation of multiple distribution through syndication.”

Despite his pivotal role creating cutting-edge programming for the Internet, Chalom’s energies are focused mainly on the raising of his three sons. The triplets are active 5-year-olds attending preschool. “I want to pass on to them all that my parents taught me about life.” Since Chalom is multilingual and his wife was schooled in Paris, the Chalom family speaks English and French at home and the boys are bilingual. “With the raising of my children, I get to re-learn everything and see things anew from their perspectives.”

And with Chalom as a role model, A&E could well have three more subjects worthy of “Biography.”

— M.D.

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