VH1 Boss Chris McCarthy Gains Oversight of MTV

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Chris McCarthy.
Chris McCarthy. Credit: Courtesy Viacom
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Viacom is hoping VH1 boss Chris McCarthy can work his magic at MTV. Mr. McCarthy, who has been heading VH1 and Logo, will now also gain oversight of MTV.

On Monday, Sean Atkins announced he would depart as president of MTV just a year after he joined the company. While Mr. Atkins had made some progress at the network, Viacom Music and Entertainment Group President Doug Herzog was planning to bring in someone above Mr. Atkins to speed things along, a person familiar with the situation said. Mr. Atkins decided to step down instead.

Mr. McCarthy, who became general manager of VH1 and Logo in June 2015 and was promoted to president of both channels in July this year, has already made a mark on VH1. While the network still has plenty to do, with ratings still below their 2014 levels, the network has hit some milestones in recent months. In March, for example, VH1 achieved a six-year ratings high, driven by shows like "Love and Hip Hop" and "Basketball Wives," while its "Hip Hop Honors" in July became the highest-rated tentpole event for VH1 in 15 years.

Mr. McCarthy is trying to elevate VH1's brand by signing big-name talent such as Martha Stewart, Snoop Dawg and Rita Ora.

Mr. McCarthy will continue to report to Mr. Herzog.

"Chris has infused every brand he's led with creativity, strategic clarity and distinctive talent -- driving results that defy this extraordinarily competitive landscape," Mr. Herzog said in a company statement. "MTV is an iconic brand full of opportunity, and Chris has demonstrated the vision and ability to grow its expansive reach and powerful cultural impact."

Under Mr. Atkins, MTV has been in the process of returning the brand to the cultural zeitgeist, a feat that has proven difficult. Ratings continue to erode as its core younger audience increasingly watch content on nontraditional platform, which are difficult to measure and monetize. The network is currently averaging 418,000 viewers in primetime, down about 10% from the same time last year. It's also lost about 16% of its audience in the 18-to-34 demographic year-over-year.

Mr. Atkins had been trying to refocus MTV on its roots in music, with shows like the live music series "Wonderland" and a reimagined version of "MTV Unplugged."

MTV is seeking a creative and media agency to help with the reinvention of the channel. A decision in that process is expected by the end of the month.

It remains to be seen where Mr. McCarthy will take MTV. "The power of the MTV brand is its ability to let go everything it knows and reinvent for the next generation of youth," Mr. McCarthy said in the statement, "and I'm excited to push the boundaries of what it can be in this transformative time."

Before VH1 and Logo, Mr. McCarthy oversaw MTV2 and Logo, and has also served as exec VP at MTV. He began his career at Viacom at mtvU, the college-oriented network, where he became general manager.

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