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McGrath Named MTV CEO

Jul 25, 2004  •  Post A Comment

As expected, MTV Networks tapped Judy McGrath to succeed Tom Freston as chairman and CEO of MTV Networks last week.

Less expected was Mark Rosenthal’s abrupt resignation as president and chief operating officer.

Mr. Rosenthal’s departure marks the most recent personnel fallout since Viacom President Mel Karmazin stepped down last month, a move that set off a series of promotions and exits. Mr. Rosenthal was one of several key MTV executives-including Herb Scannell, MTV Networks Group president, and Bill Roedy, president of MTV Networks International-who were considered in the running for Mr. Freston’s post.

Ms. McGrath’s and Mr. Rosenthal’s replacements have not been announced.

Ms. McGrath portrayed the working relationship between herself and other executives vying for the job as amicable.

“Any one of us could have gotten this,” Ms. McGrath said. “Ever since Tom said `so long’ we’ve been running it collectively without him. Herb and Bill have been my colleagues for a long time; Mark and I have worked together forever. I respect that Mark wants to run something by himself completely. I think we all thought [whoever got the promotion], we could live with the decision and flourish.”

The appointment is effective immediately. Previously, Ms. McGrath was president of MTV Networks Group and responsible for oversight of MTV, MTV2, VH1, CMT and Comedy Central. Her responsibilities now are expanded to include Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Spike TV, The N, MTV Networks Digital Suite and MTV Networks International.

“Tom certainly invented the DNA,” Ms. McGrath said. “It’s like I have to follow Eric Clapton or Bono. … I’ll try to not burn the building down and make it my own somehow.”

How she will make the post her own is still unclear.

“It’s too early to say anything with any a real conviction,” she said, “but one of the things I’ve been saying is that the young and young-adult media extends way off basic cable to online and the Internet and we’re all focused on how to connect with them smartly.”

Ms. McGrath’s favorite network is probably the least known: teen-lifestyle brand The N. But the network that’s likely going to be her biggest challenge is Spike TV, which has yet to pop as a strong cable destination.

Though she was reluctant to discuss any specific plans for Spike, Ms. McGrath defended the network. “I think they did a great job rebranding it,” she said. “I think it is connecting. I know from personal experience how tough it is to launch and relaunch, and it takes time to develop a full development pipeline.”