Judy McGrath, chairman-CEO of MTV Networks and a 30-year veteran of MTV , is leaving the company effective today, she said in a statement released by MTV parent Viacom. No successor will be named; all the division heads will begin reporting directly to Viacom president-CEO Phillippe Dauman.
Ms. McGrath began her career with MTV as a copywriter at the fledgling music-video channel in 1981, the year it began. She was named chairman and CEO of MTV Networks in 2004.
Ms. McGrath's departure comes at a time when ratings for MTV , the company's flagship network, are at an all-time high thanks to reality shows such as "Jersey Shore" and "Teen Mom," which MTV renewed yesterday for a fourth season. Earlier this year MTV drew lots of attention for the racy teen soap "Skins," from which some advertisers retreated.
Ms. McGrath's exit has been occasionally rumored over the years, most recently amid reports that she and Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone had disagreements over "The Electric Barbarellas," an MTV reality show that premiered last night, a disagreement first reported by Peter Lauria, then at The Daily Beast.
Viacom spokesman Carl Folta called that report "ridiculous" and told Ad Age today that Ms. McGrath "is so much bigger than one show."
"Her decision to leave MTV Networks is hers," Mr. Folta said. "She's done this for 30 years. MTV Networks is doing better than it's ever done in its history. Ratings are at an all-time high, stock's at an all-time high. In the media business there's lots of conspiracies but sometimes people do things because they're the rational and smart thing to do."
Viacom's statement did not offer a reason for Ms. McGrath's departure now or suggest what she might do next. "The people of MTV Networks have always been singularly important to me," it quoted her saying. "Together we have built world-class brands that connect with fans from kid to adulthood, from 'SpongeBob' to 'Hot In Cleveland,' from 'Unplugged' to 'The Daily Show.' We have attracted and nurtured the best talent in the world, and I know that will always be a hallmark of the company. Creatively, financially, all the brands and businesses are in wonderful shape today. I leave with pride, joy and gratitude for the ride of a lifetime. I especially thank my friends and colleagues on the senior team, who will continue to lead a kick-ass organization. They have my respect and affection, always."
Mr. Dauman said in the statement that he respected Ms. McGrath's decision to leave at the top of the game. "The networks under her direction are rapidly expanding to new platforms and reaching new creative and ratings milestones, all under the able guidance of experienced and talented management teams," he said. "With a deep executive bench and our popular and growing stable of media network brands, we are confident that Viacom won't miss a beat and will flourish."
The MTV Networks division chiefs who now report to Mr. Dauman are Doug Herzog, president at the MTVN Entertainment Group; Van Toffler, president at MTVN Music and Logo Group; and Cyma Zarghami, president, Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids & Family Group.