Dear Mr. Redstone: I know the names John Lydon and Joey Ramone may mean nothing to you, but I bet they do to Tom Freston and Judy McGrath. Lydon, Ramone and their ilk were young rock ‘n rollers in whose spirit MTV was created. Their music was so loud and passionate it became a religion to kids. It had so much rage that it frightened people my age and terrified folks your age. That made it all the more appealing to a generation whose members once stuttered they’d rather die than be as old as either of us. As a result, young people embraced MTV like no other network. Within two years, there wasn’t a network anywhere more identified with its audience than MTV. In fact, sociologists came to label that generation by the network’s call letters. That, sir, is brand power. Mr. Redstone, you know that a brand is the relationship between a product and consumers. It is the reason we pay more for Morton’s Salt than we do for generic salt, even when we know there’s no difference. And you know that in a competitive environment, that’s huge. I’m asking you to stop abusing MTV’s brand. Stop taking one of Viacom’s most valuable assets – the bond between MTV and its audience – and using it to front for dusty relics like CBS. It’s not helping CBS, and it’s killing MTV. It wasn’t until the Super Bowl that this crystallized for me. Janet Jackson, a by-the-numbers fading pop diva? And Justin Timberlake, a boy-band wimp? Why were they on an MTV-produced show? In fact, what is MTV doing anywhere near a show designed to please everyone from Bill O’Reilly to old cranks like us? Somewhere, Johnny Rotten was spinning in his grave. The way you ride MTV hard and put it away wet reminds me of what Michael Eisner did to ESPN. When I was at ESPN, a friend used to say that we had a brand people wanted to have a few beers with. What Mr. Eisner has done in the pursuit of synergy is to take ESPN’s brand and drag it out of the bar by its ear. He’s neutered it; stretched it so thin and sanitized it so utterly for mass consumption that it’s lost some of the qualities that made it loved by its core audience. Sure the old ESPN left the toilet set up, but the average sports fan thought that was great. It made the brand human. And while I acknowledge ESPN can argue today that its business has never been stronger, my sense tells me Bristol should be careful. The heavy-handed synergy and relentless use of the brand to sell all things Disney could soon make ESPN’s core viewers feel like their drinking buddy sold them down the river. Please understand I say this with great respect, but what makes one a great CEO does not necessarily make one a great brand builder. And outside of Discovery, I see our best media brands being systematically eroded in the name of synergy. Mr. Redstone, wouldn’t it be better to treat each brand separately and allow your marketers to compete with one another, if that’s what it took to survive? Rather than joining hands and singing Kumbaya, why not play a game of "Survivor: Viacom?" If CBS or Blockbuster is struggling, let them figure it out. This is just me, but I’d much rather run a company with a handful of well-defined, well-loved icons, than one in which cross-pollination has created a bunch of brands whose lines have blurred beyond recognition. The next time the NFL looks for a half-time show, let Nickelodeon or VH1 produce it. Keep MTV off the field. Let MTV hang on the street corner where it belongs, smoking cigarettes and skipping school. Respectfully, M.C. Antil

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