Graden’s MTV mandate

New exec veep, programming has 'system-wide' control

NEW YORK — After more than a month of heavy consideration, MTV took a solid step into its future Tuesday by tapping Brian Graden as its new programming czar.

Graden was long considered the obvious pick for the post. But the cabler’s lack of any formal announcement since the abrupt departure of former veep of programming Andy Schuon on Nov. 11 had led to considerable speculation among industry insiders.

MTV announced Tuesday that Graden, who joined the company’s ranks in August, is being promoted to exec VP of programming, a move that effectively puts him in charge of all programming “system-wide.”

“What’s novel about this is that, for the first time, every single programming arm throughout the entire network will be integrated under a single programming head,” Graden told Daily Variety. “Nothing can be random anymore.”

The move is part of a new structure for MTV (Daily Variety Nov. 12) that has 10-year veteran Van Toffler assuming the newly created position of general manager. Graden will report directly to MTV prexy Judy McGrath and have “a dotted line” to Toffler, who along with McGrath, oversees all of MTV’s operations.

The new structure puts music, animation, news and longform programming, talent relations, scheduling and development all under Graden’s purview, replacing the former system of having four programming heads, Toffler said.

“Brian is a great marriage of a methodical thinker and a creative champion,” Toffler said. “He will really help to reinvigorate things here — get us firing on all our pistons.”

The new structure and Toffler’s promotion were announced Nov. 11, and sources said the delay in promoting Graden was due in large part to a sticking point in the negotiations over which coast Graden would call home.

Most senior MTV execs are Gotham-based, but Graden (who lives in Los Angeles) felt strongly that, with L.A.’s importance in the television world, the cabler would do well to keep him there, sources said.

“It looks like I’ll be doing work on both coasts,” Graden said. “At first, I’ll be spending a lot of time in New York, but I’ll be following the work, and a good bit of it will be in L.A.”

An MTV release said Graden would be based in New York.

Ratings for the cabler have been relatively flat compared to last year, but with an 18% increase in third-quarter earnings to $175.1 million over a year ago, MTV remains a powerhouse earner for parent company Viacom Inc.

MTV execs hope the new structure will send a “clearer message” to the creative community — especially talent — about their desire to do business. McGrath said Graden’s mission is to “make sure that everything we do is music-inspired, creator-driven, audience-focused and innovative.”

Graden came to MTV by way of Foxlab, where he was a senior VP (overseeing “America’s Most Wanted” and “Cops”), and Comedy Central, where he was an exec producer and co-creator of the hit series “South Park.” He was also the creator of the syndie dating game “Studs.”

Regarding MTV’s stated goal of cutting back on non-music programming, Graden told Daily Variety that the “real idea here is to find ideas that cut through and get people’s attention.

“MTV is about music, so now the goal will be how to make music break through,” he said.

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