Viacom has announced that it is moving CMT (formerly Country Music Television) and TV Land to its Global Entertainment Group, placing management responsibilities of the two networks under Kevin Kay, who will continue to run Spike.
Viacom formed the GEG last year and houses Viacom’s International Media Networks (VIMN) and its Music and Entertainment Group, which includes MTV, Comedy Central, Spike, VH1 and Logo.
Being housed under the new unit “will strengthen these brands even further and will allow GEG to connect more deeply with our adult audience — which is well over 180 million viewers across Viacom brands globally,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said in a memo to employees.
CMT and TV Land were formerly part of the Kids & Family Group headed by Cyma Zarghami, where Bakish says Zarghami helped to lead them “to the highs they are hitting today.”
He added that he now wants her “considerable focus and drive … centered on our important kids audience” in order to “keep Nickelodeon expanding its brand and business more than ever.”
Kay followed with a memo of his own, saying: “The foundation for success is in place. With the forward-thinking and ambitious teams we have, I believe we have only scratched the surface on what we can achieve.” And CMT President Brian Philips assured his troops that Kay “is a warm, kind, funny and enthusiastic leader” who has “already fully embraced CMT’s work.”
Kay established his track record at Nickelodeon, where he developed some of the company’s biggest franchises, including SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly OddParents. More recently, he has been a catalyst behind some of Spike’s biggest shows, like Emmy-nominated Lip Sync Battle, Ink Master, and Bar Rescue and brought live sports into the business with the acquisition of Bellator MMA.
“I'm looking forward to seeing Kevin bring that same creative vision to the strong teams and leadership he’s inheriting with CMT and TV Land,” Bakish said in the memo.
The news comes just ahead of Viacom’s quarterly earnings report, due on February 9.
Further information regarding TV Land and CMT’s transition under Kay’s remit will be announced in the near future.
Here’s Bakish’s full memo:
I wanted to let you know that we have formalized CMT and TV Land’s move to the Global Entertainment Group, where they and Spike will now report to Kevin Kay. Consolidating all three under Kevin’s leadership will strengthen these brands even further and will allow GEG to connect more deeply with our adult audience — which is well over 180 million viewers across Viacom brands globally.
Kevin has a long-running track record of developing some of Viacom’s biggest franchises, including SpongeBob and Fairly OddParents during his tenure at Nickelodeon. Under Kevin’s leadership, Spike has grown and evolved into a premium entertainment destination for a gender-balanced audience. He is the driving force behind hit global, multiplatform formats such as the Emmy-nominated Lip Sync Battle, Ink Master, and Bar Rescue, which rank among the highest-rated cable series in their respective timeslots. He is also responsible for bringing live sports into the house, with the acquisition of Bellator MMA, one of the world’s fastest rising sports properties, now seen over 140 countries worldwide.
I’m looking forward to seeing Kevin bring that same creative vision to the strong teams and leadership he’s inheriting with CMT and TV Land. Brian Philips has ably led CMT’s recent brand transformation to incredible ratings gains and creative wins, particularly with the network’s current hit, Nashville; and, at TV Land, Keith Cox has built a pipeline of buzzworthy content where hits like Younger and Teachers are just the beginning.
As the head of the Kids & Family Group, Cyma Zarghami championed CMT and TV Land and was instrumental in leading them to the highs they are hitting today. Having her considerable focus and drive now centered on our important kids audience will keep Nickelodeon expanding its brand and business more than ever.
Further specifics on the TV Land and CMT transition to Kevin’s world will be coming shortly from brand and team leadership. In the meantime, thank you to everyone across the company for your incredible work every day.
Here’s the memo from Kay:
I’m incredibly excited and grateful for the opportunity to lead the immensely talented and creative teams at TV Land and CMT, along with the Spike team which I’ve proudly been a part of since launch in 2003. Behind the leadership of Bob and the new dynamic management team at Viacom, there is great momentum at the company which is a testament to your hard work and dedication. Over the next few weeks, I look forward to getting to know everyone and up to speed on all that you are working on.
I’ve already been talking to Keith and Brian, and with exceptional and distinctive original programming across the brands from Younger to Nashville to Lip Sync Battle, the foundation for success is in place. With the forward-thinking and ambitious teams we have, I believe we have only scratched the surface on what we can achieve.
I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge my long-time colleague Cyma Zarghami for her success growing the TV Land and CMT brands and thank her for her tremendous support during this transition.
I’ve been at Viacom for over 20 years and I’m truly honored to partner with all of you as our company continues to evolve and grow. The future is bright and I’m so glad to be a part of it with you.
And here’s one from CMT President Brian Philips:
"Dear CMT Colleagues,
I want you to know of my excitement for today’s Bob Bakish/Kevin Kay/Cyma notes about our inclusion in the new Viacom Global Entertainment Group, teamed with our friends at TV Land and Spike. This has all come together quickly and seamlessly for us. Bob Bakish, Kevin Kay and our dear friend from Kids and Family, (now our Global COO) Sarah Kirshbaum Levy are traveling and working like wildfire to build an impressive new coalition of top talent and great brands. I was fortunate to share in excitement as we opened new Viacom Hollywood office last week. As you may have heard, our new entity was cheered on with a rousing speech from Shari Redstone! We’re ALL fired up and believe this new configuration holds great promise for CMT.
We are on track to welcome these people to Nashville with a brief visit next Friday, February 10th. I am very happy that we will be joined by CMT’s biggest advocate and guardian angel, Cyma Zarghami.. More on this to follow.
I know you may be thinking, “Wait, we work for another new company/division?” This question came up last week from an LA trade mag reporter and this is my answer: CMT has been touched by much greatness in my time at the channel, dating back to the MTVN/Music Group years. Our experience on Cyma Zarghami’s watch was wonderful and transcendent, thanks to her devotion to building CMT with the support of excellent Kids & Family team. From Music Group on, I’ve been lucky to have the best of these people remain in my life, and I rely on them still for counsel. Similarly, the new team leadership is largely comprised of people I/we have known and admired for a long time.
Bob Bakish and I go back as far as a hazy MTVN Ad Sales Conference in Puerto Rico around the time I joined in 2001. Bob has proven himself smart and tenacious as he strengthened our international business. Getting reacquainted in recent months has been a pleasure. Bob is a straight-talking optimist, a man on a mission. I bet you will be motivated by his words and presence next week. Some people we meet and think, “I want to win for him/her!” It’s intangible, yet this is how I feel about Bob, believe you will, too.
Kevin Kay’s personal and professional credentials are as strong as you read in Bob’s email. Yes, Kevin really did shepherd SpongeBob to Nickelodeon in 2001, the same year I joined the company. (I am keenly aware that between SpongeBob and me, the sponge has a larger fan base and has sold a trillion dollars more merchandise with his likeness on it.) Kevin has grown in his role every year, built a great business at Spike, and been a good partner to CMT. Kevin’s channel also has big hits and grand plans. Kevin is a warm, kind, funny and enthusiastic leader. He has already fully embraced CMT’s work, and I look forward to your chance to meet him.
Thanks to you, CMT finds itself in a strong position as this new group comes together! I am proud to welcome these new leaders to Nashville next week,
More soon, Brian"
Original sources: Multichannel, Deadline, Realscreen.
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