Viacom CEO takes control of MTV, Comedy Central as Herzog exits

Bob Bakish
Viacom CEO Bob Bakish. Image: Viacom

New Viacom CEO Bob Bakish will take direct control of MTV, Comedy Central and Spike as Viacom veteran Doug Herzog exits the company.

In a memo to employees, obtained by Variety, Bakish said that the executives for brands in the Music and Entertainment Group, formerly headed up by Herzog, would now report to him. That includes Chris McCarthy, head of MTV, VH1 and Logo, along with Comedy Central chief Kent Alterman and Spike TV head Kevin Kay.

Although the three Viacom execs will be reporting directly to Bakish, Variety cited sources claiming that the CEO will likely grant more authority to the three to run the networks as they see fit.

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Part of that strategy though will likely mean a move away from scripted series, at least in the case of MTV. In 2015, then MTV president Stephen Friedman said serialized scripted series would be the future of MTV.

"Because the world is dark and complicated, the audience wants complicated entertainment," Friedman said, according to Billboard. Friedman helped oversee the launch of MTV series including “Teen Wolf” and “Scream.”

But Bakish doesn’t share that vision for MTV any longer. According to Variety, the move to scripted at MTV was a “mistake” that Viacom intended to fix.

RELATED: With no CBS deal, it's time to sell Viacom shares, Barron's says

For Herzog, this ends a 27-year career with Viacom, over which time he helped create network juggernauts like "The Daily Show" and "The Real World." But he’s hardly the first media exec to leave the struggling company in the past few years. In October, McCarthy took over MTV oversight after President Sean Atkins departed. Atkins stayed in his position for less than a year after assuming the reins at MTV from Friedman.

Also leaving earlier this month was Denise Denson, executive vice president of distribution for Viacom, only a few months after MTV reality chief Lauren Dolgen left the company after 19 years.

Of course, all the management shakeups within Viacom come in a year which saw the bitter ouster of CEO Philippe Dauman, who managed to jump ship with a $93 million compensation package, and also saw the dissolving of a potential remerger of Viacom and CBS.

RELATED: National Amusements calls off CBS-Viacom remerger

“Over the past few months, after careful assessment and meetings with the leadership of both companies, we have concluded that this is not the right time to merge the companies,” wrote National Amusements CEO Shari Redstone in a letter to shareholders. “Following the management changes that the Viacom Board put in place, we have been very impressed with the forward‐looking thinking and strategic plan being pursued under Bob Bakish’s leadership. We know Viacom has tremendous assets that are currently undervalued, and we are confident that with this new strong management team, the value of these assets can be unleashed.”

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