May 19, 2024

Media Decoder: Judith McGrath, Chief of MTV, Resigns

MTV Networks announced Thursday that its chairman and chief executive, Judy McGrath, was resigning. The surprising change at the top comes at a time when MTV is riding a surge in both ratings for its programs and profits for its parent company, Viacom.

Viacom said Ms. McGrath had decided it was a perfect time to leave to pursue other ventures,  although those ventures were not named. She leaves at time when the company has ascended to a new peak of success, with programs like “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom” on MTV, “SpongeBob SquarePants” on Nickelodeon, and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central.

Ms. McGrath declined interviews, as did Philippe Dauman, the Viacom president.

In a statement, Ms. McGrath did not cite any reason for her decision, saying that she was leaving “with pride, joy and gratitude for the ride of a lifetime.” Mr. Dauman, also in a statement, said, “We respect her decision and understand her desire to leave at the very top of her game.”

Viacom also announced that Ms. McGrath’s position would be eliminated.

The three top executives who reported to Ms. McGrath — Doug Herzog, the president of the MTV Networks Entertainment Group, Van Toffler, the president of MTV’s Music and Logo Group and Cyma Zarghami, the president of MTV Networks Kids and Family Group — will now report directly to Mr. Dauman.

Ms. McGrath spent virtually her entire career at MTV Networks, having joined MTV almost at its birth in 1981. She was closely associated with the long-time MTV Networks chief executive, Tom Freston, and succeeded him after he was ousted by the Viacom chairman, Sumner Redstone, in 2006.

In an internal memo to the staff announcing the change, Mr. Dauman praised Ms. McGarth for her “spirit of discovery and reinvention.” He also said that he looked forward to “working more closely” with the executives who had formerly reported to Ms. McGrath.

Last month, Viacom announced a 20 percent increase in revenue driven by advertiser demand for shows like “Jersey Shore.” Mr. Dauman said “Viacom has never been stronger financially.”

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