John P. Symes is one of the few executives over the last 30 years who has touched virtually every aspect of the television industry. In his years at Paramount and MGM Television, Symes played an instrumental role in the development and production of over 5,000 hours of television content that resulted in over 500 Emmy nominations and 100 wins for outstanding achievement.
In 2016, Symes founded Patient Talk, a health care website for patients diagnosed with life altering medical conditions, both acute and chronic. This network-quality video site features actual patients and health care professionals sharing vital information about the practical, physical and emotional issues that patients face before, during and after an initial diagnosis. The inspiration for the website came from John’s own experience after his wife of 30 years, Meg, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. When Meg turned to friends who were breast cancer survivors for practical information she couldn’t find on medical websites, John realized that there was a need for advice from real patients about the issues they faced. Having built their state of the art website and produced their first five diagnosis series’ with over 30 hours of original content, Patient Talk features series on breast cancer, obesity, back pain, joint replacements and Lyme disease. The management team is currently raising funds to expand its content to include over sixty diagnosis series and make its disruptive service a reality.
Symes began his entertainment career in 1979 in the film-shipping department at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. From there he quickly moved into an executive position at Paramount’s Domestic Television Distribution Division. Within three years, he was in charge of all of the division’s distribution operations. This included the company’s launch into the home video entertainment business and setting up the first ever day and date satellite delivered television series, Entertainment Tonight, which continues to air nightly, 35 years after it’s debut!
Seeking a more hands on creative role at Paramount, in 1982 Symes was hired as the Executive Director of Production, Paramount Video. In this role, Symes was involved in the production of Frank Sinatra’s Concert for the Americas, Diana Ross’ Live from Central Park and the Rock of the 80’s, where he introduced such artists as Cyndi Lauper, R.E.M., Culture Club and the Stray Cats playing live on television for the first time.
Three years later, Symes was asked to join Paramount’s Network Television Division was named Vice President, Programming where he supervised production of series including “Cheers”, “Family Ties”, “MacGyver”, “Dear John”, and “Webster”. In 1990, Symes was named, Executive-Vice President of Creative Affairs. He was responsible for the development, casting and production of all original programming for the broadcast networks, including “Frasier”, “Wings”, “Brooklyn Bridge”, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” and “Sister, Sister”.
In January 1994, Symes was named President of the MGM Worldwide Television Group. He was hired to restart MGM’s Television operations, which had been shut down by previous owners in 1991. In this position, he was responsible for the development and production of all television programming for MGM, as well as overseeing the company’s worldwide television program sales, marketing, legal and distribution activities.
Under Symes supervision the TV Group grew to a workforce of 150 people and generated revenues in excess of $500 million a year by 1999. The key to the MGM TV’s resurgence was the successful launches and continued renewals for such Emmy-winning Sci-Fi series as “The Outer Limits,” “Poltergeist: The Legacy,” and “Stargate-SG1” starring Richard Dean Anderson, the longest running science fiction series in television history. In total, over 400 hours of these three series were produced during Symes’ reign and contributed over $700 million to MGM’s bottom line. The division was also one of the most prolific producers of award winning made for television movies, culminating in the production of a television remake of 12 Angry Men, directed by Academy Award winning director, William Friedkin and starring Jack Lemon and George C. Scott. This production would go on to win both Golden Globe and Emmy Awards.
In 2003, Symes partnered with MGM associate Richard B. Lewis to produce both feature and television product under the banner of Ovation Entertainment. This partnership resulted in the production of two feature films, “Eulogy”, starring Ray Romano, Debra Winger, Zooey Deschanel, and Hank Azaria, and House of D, starring Robin Williams, Tea Leoni & David Duchovny.
Symes was raised in Lafayette, California and graduated from the University of California Berkeley in 1978. He currently lives in Pasadena with his wife of 32 years Meg, who together raised three children, daughters Katie (29), Sarah (27), and son Jack (23).
Title: Founder & CEO
Company/Affiliation: Patient Talk LLC.
Industry: healthcare information
Interest: Interested in taking healthcare information from text driven to video centric. Looking for partnerships on specifics diagnosis series and in Patient Talk LLC.