In the wake of MTVN chairman and CEO Judy McGrath’s Monday morning memo that 250 U.S. staffers would be let go starting this week, the pink slips have started flying at 1515 Broadway and beyond.
Among the MTV Networks departments that got whacked: VH1 Classic, including channel GM Eric Sherman; MTV2, with GM David Cohen hoping to stay on-board (both networks will continue on-air); and affiliate sales and marketing, including EVP Jessica Heacock, who insiders say jumped before she was pushed.
Heacock, MTVN’s "beloved" (according to an anonymous tipster on Jossip) former EVP of affiliate sales and marketing (whose most recent title was EVP of partner marketing and finance) was passed over for the top affiliate sales and marketing post that went to Denise Dahldorf, now EVP of affiliate sales for MTVN and BET Networks.
Both women were contenders to run MTVN’s cross-networks distribution team, formerly led by ASM president Nicole Browning and EVP Peter Low, who exited last month.
Others who were shown the door this week: EVP of multiplatform programming, content strategy and scheduling Paul DeBenedittis [update: DeBenedittis was named VP-operations, MTV Digital, on 6/5/07]; Salli Frattini, SVP of production, and her team; Kathy Flynn, SVP for production events (such as the MTV Movie Awards) and her staff; New York-based affiliate sales and marketing SVPs Susan Keith and Sandy Ashendorf plus most of their ASM colleagues in Santa Monica and Chicago; VH1’s SVP of communications Laura Nelson; and staffers within ad sales, MTV News and MTV World’s three ethnic nets—MTV Chi, MTV Desi and MTV K—although MTV World GM/SVP Nusrat Durrani is hoping for another position.
Also rumored to be cut at MTV this week, but still around according to a spokesperson: Tina Exarhos, EVP of marketing and multiplatform creative. Comedy Central’s casualties included VP of on-air design Kendrick Reid.
While staffers and so-called "permalancers" were axed in the dozens, MTVN posted 100+ job openings, primarily in the digital media and online space that the company has been embracing with zeal since the shock ouster in September of another "beloved" MTVN exec, former president and CEO Tom Freston.
Update: MTV president Christina Norman issued a mid-week memo to clarify the organizational moves this week and squelch the rumor mill regarding TRL‘s demise. "It’s never easy to make changes that result in good people leaving, and I want to let everyone know that none of these decisions were made hastily," she wrote in an email message picked up by Gawker (and confirmed by an MTVN rep). Norman outlined this week’s changes including:
• consolidating the operations of MTV2 within MTV, losing staffers despite MTV2 remaining on-air
• creating "a newly streamlined marketing area that consists of the on-air promotions, off and on-air design and online marketing teams"
• making "the tough decision to streamline our production process as well as personnel in our studio. TRL will air as always … but we will now operator more efficiently" in MTV’s Times Square studio
• deciding to "have [MTV] News and News Online teams operate as one team"
• saying "goodbye to some longstanding colleagues in the Production Events department" led by Kathy Flynn
• streamlining the program planning and scheduling team led by Paul DeBenedittis
• the on-air closure of MTV World, about which Norman stated: “Unfortunately, the premium distribution model for MTV World proved more challenging than we anticipated in this competitive environment. As a result, MTV has decided to shut down its linear MTV World operation. However, we remain steadfast in superserving multicultural youth, and we are continuing to investigate ways to integrate the MTV Desi, Chi and K brands online and on our other screens.” MTV World had distribution deals with Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, DirecTV, FiOS TV and AT&T’s U-verse.
Norman didn’t address a New York Post story that Viacom plans to move MTVN’s Manhattan flagship offices—1550 Broadway and 1775 Broadway—out of Times Square and into cheaper NYC digs downtown.
VH1 GM Tom Calderone also emailed a memo (posted on Jossip) on Feb. 16 regarding the "painful staff reductions" at VH1 Classic and announced the VH1 staffers who will now moonlight to keep the six-year old VH1 Classic on the air.