Judy McGrath, the group president of Viacom's MTV Networks, has been named new chairman and chief executive officer of MTV Networks. The announcement was made this afternoon by Viacom's new co-chief operating officer Tom Freston who previously held the position which Ms. McGrath is assuming.
Mr. Freston described it as a tough decision because of the talented team he had built around him. He also admitted that he knew that MTV Networks operations and sales chief Mark Rosenthal would leave if he wasn't offered the job. Mr. Freston said he made his choice based on MTV Networks' biggest advantage -- its company culture, and he indicated that Ms. McGrath was the candidate best suited to preserving it. "Judy was a perfect fit for the job. I've known her for 17 years."
Mr. Rosenthal did not immediately respond to a call for comment. MTV Networks confirmed that Mr. Rosenthal, president and COO of MTV Networks, would depart the company. He is understood to have discussed potential roles at Viacom's movie studio, Paramount, before his exit. Mr. Freston praised the contribution of Mr. Rosenthal, saying the company had enjoyed a record upfront year.
Across the different network services, MTV increased its upfront take by 24% this year.
MTV Networks International
Ms. McGrath adds a number of new services to her purview. They include Comedy Central, CMT, Spike TV, the Nickelodeon-branded channels and gay-themed channel LOGO which will launch in 2005. Nickelodeon president Herb Scannell and MTV Networks International chief Bill Roedy will both report to Ms. McGrath.
Her appointment appears to give credence to those who see Viacom handing back the reins to creatively-focused, rather than sales-focused, leaders within the organization. It follows the departure of Viacom president and chief operating officer Mel Karmazin and the promotion of Mr. Freston and CBS colleague Leslie Moonves as co-COOs at Viacom.
The appointment leaves open the question of who might replace Ms. McGrath at the top of MTV. Though Ms. McGrath's ascent was widely predicted in the company, the departure of Mark Rosenthal, MTV Networks operations and sales chief, was not.
Digital games priority
In an interview with AdAge.com, Ms. McGrath said that increasing investments in the wireless and gaming world were among her priorities. "I think we need some teeth there," she said adding that there would be additional focus on programming at networks such as Nick at Night and TV Land.
Another priority she said would be to diversify MTV Networks to include more of a variety of voices.
Commenting on MTV's relationship with media buyers, she said she would like to do some reconnecting with agencies to explore more creative ways of showcasing MTV 's services. "I want to them to know that we are grateful for their business…that there is nothing we take for granted."
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