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McGrath Makes Changes at MTV

Oct 11, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Some familiar faces got big new jobs at MTV Networks as recently promoted CEO Judy McGrath reorganized the management structure at the company.

As expected, Ms. McGrath’s MTV sidekicks Van Toffler and Brian Graden expanded their responsibilities. And in a surprise move Larry Divney returned to the company as chief operating officer, ad sales, after a retirement from MTV Networks’ Comedy Central so brief it was almost funny.

Mr. Toffler was named MTV Networks group president. He had been president of MTV, MTV2 and MTV Films and is adding responsibility for VH1, CMT, and Logo, the new network for the gay and lesbian market. Mr. Graden was named president, entertainment, MTV Networks Music Group and will be creative liaison to MTV’s international operations. He was also named president of Logo. (Matt Farber, who has been working on the Logo project, was named founder of the network and expands his consulting role for MTV Networks, concentrating on the gay and lesbian audience as well as on other underserved groups.)

“MTV has been on a roll for five, six, seven years, enjoying its highest ratings ever, and CMT and VH1 are also having their highest-rated years ever, so the business is booming,” Mr. Toffler said. “There’s so much growth left in these brands.”

Mr. Toffler said getting Logo distributed is at the top of his priority list. He’s also looking to move MTV, VH1 and CMT into digital media, such as wireless and online. “These brands have such loyal audiences that they will follow them as they migrate into other areas,” he said.

Mr. Toffler and Mr. Graden have been working together under Ms. McGrath since 1997. “We almost speak in sign language now, and it’s great to have him as my partner creatively in these networks,”‘ Mr. Toffler said of Mr. Graden.

“It’s a wonderful relationship,” added Mr. Graden. “I do what I like to do; he does what he likes to do. I live in L.A.; he lives in New York. It’s actually near-perfect.”

In his new job Mr. Graden will continue to develop content.

“My goal is to stay close to the creative people and close to the television, because at the end of the day, that’s what drives your product and that’s what drives every other aspect of your business,” he said.

Competing for MTV’s young viewers will only get tougher, he said. “It really seems like in the last three years there’s not a major player who hasn’t jumped into the content business in a major way. There’s something like 50 percent more original programming dollars against 12 to 34, versus, say, even four years ago,” Mr. Graden said. “So that’s just a mammoth amount of creativity going into cable competition, and our generation are such savvy navigators that they are adept at finding great stuff, so you have to make sure that you’re constantly fresh with new stuff and you never miss a trend.”

Mr. Divney retired as president of Comedy Central in June, making room for the return of Doug Herzog. (Mr. Herzog reports directly to Ms. McGrath in the new setup.) He was planning to spend time with his new wife on his farm in upstate New York. Instead, several senior MTV executives had been looking for ways to tap Mr. Divney’s experience, and in his new post, he picks up some of the responsibilities formerly held by Bob Bakish, who was recently named an executive VP of MTV parent company Viacom.

Ms. McGrath also appointed Denmark West as executive VP, strategy and business development. He was most recently manager of strategic planning and investment governance and acting chief of staff for the Windows client division at Microsoft.