MTV Loses Its Digital Guru

Jason Hirschhorn Leaves Just as Music Store Urge Goes Live

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NEW YORK ( -- Jason Hirschhorn, named global digital officer of MTV Networks in November, is leaving the Viacom-owned cable network. He will assume a transitional consulting role through the summer; Nick Lehman, exec VP of digital media, will assume Mr. Hirschhorn's responsibilities for now.
Jason Hirschhorn
Jason Hirschhorn

Urge launch
Mr. Hirschhorn has been largely credited with guiding MTV's broadband, wireless and digital-music strategy, most recently launching Urge, a digital-music store in collaboration with Microsoft that is an ambitious challenger to Apple's iTunes, which has largely owned the digital-music market.

"Over the years when I've had questions of wanting to leave and going back to be an entrepreneur, they've given me reasons not to," Mr. Hirschhorn said in an interview with Ad Age. He said he went to Judy McGrath, CEO of MTV Networks, several months ago and talked about his desire to "return to his roots." (Before joining MTV six years ago, Mr. Hirschhorn launched Mischief New Media, which MTV acquired.) He said he had wanted to see through the launch of Urge, which was announced last fall.

'Hey, summer's here'
"I sat down and presented the business to Judy and went over the goals she set," he said. "And we're in good shape -- we have great broadband networks, immersive sites, we're fully distributed in wireless and doing more than anyone else in that space. ... Judy's intent [for MTV's digital-media strategy] was to make everybody a digital executive or team member. And you see that in rights to programming to ad sales to creative. We accomplished that earlier than I thought. I thought I might be here through end of year, but hey, summer's here, the weather's warm."

He told Mr. Lehman of his leaving a few days ago and is quietly breaking the news to the rest of his staff. He plans to spend part of the summer traveling through Europe. While he wouldn't disclose his post-MTV plan, he said, "It'll be around the digital space and broadband, whether it's a startup or financed by biggies."

Ms. McGrath, chairman-CEO of MTV Networks, issued a statement: "Jason is a visionary who has been a driving force during the transformation of MTV Networks from a linear cable programming company to a digital, multiplatform powerhouse. He has helped us establish a strong leadership position in the digital-media revolution -- from the Web to broadband video to wireless entertainment. ... We can't wait to see what he dreams up next, and we would love to work with him again."
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