MTV President Steps Down After Just a Year on the Job

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Sean Atkins.
Sean Atkins. Credit: MTV

MTV President Sean Atkins is stepping down from the company just over a year in the role. Despite his efforts to re-focus MTV on its music roots and the high-profile reboot of MTV News, Mr. Atkins has been unable to revive sagging ratings on the linear channel.

An MTV spokesman confirmed Mr. Atkins departure, which was first reported by Deadline.

Mr. Atkins sent an email to employees Monday morning saying "this was in no way an easy decision for me."

Mr. Atkins had made some progress at the network, overseeing the debut of new shows like "Mary + Jane" and "Loosely Exactly Nicole," filling the pipeline with 14 new series and introducing MTV's Snapchat Discover channel. But Viacom Music and Entertainment Group President Doug Herzog believed that the turnaround at the linear network was slow and resolved to bring in someone over Mr. Atkins to help accelerate progress, according to a person familiar with the situation. As a result, Mr. Atkins decided to step down.

MTV is expected to announce Mr. Atkins' replacement imminently. But his short stint at the network does beg the question, is there anyone who can return MTV to the pop culture zeitgeist?

MTV's ratings continue to erode as its core younger audience increasingly watches content on non-traditional platforms, which are difficult to measure and make money from. The network is averaging 418,000 viewers in primetime, down about 10% from last year. It's also lost about 16% of its audience in the 18-to-34 demographic since a year ago.

Mr. Atkins joined MTV in September 2015 from Discovery, where he led the company's digital media, succeeding Stephen Friedman.

Mr. Atkins will remain at the network in an advisory role through January.

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

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