MTV exec looks to build 'very separate creative teams'

MTV Networks has finalized a deal with MTV content king Brian Graden to add VH1 programming, production and development responsibilities to his purview.

Exec — who in January was upped from programming prexy to president of entertainment for MTV, MTV2 and MTV.com — will assume the post of prexy of entertainment for both MTV and VH1. Move had been expected (Daily Variety, April 19).

Under the new structure, Graden will be responsible for developing the programming strategy and development slate for VH1. The programming, music, news and production teams now report to him.

Also, VH1 exec VP of programming and production Fred Graver will segue to an independent production role as exec producer for some of VH1’s projects. No specific projects have been nailed down.

Graden’s pact is significant, as reviving the programming at ratings-challenged VH1 is widely considered a large and tricky task, and the deal follows Graden’s already sizable responsibilities being expanded once already this year.

However, Graden told Daily Variety he’s more than up to the challenge.

“These sort of opportunities come up when they come up. You have to look at them,” he said. “My gut check was whether I believe in the VH1 brand. At the end of the day — I know the value of that brand is there.”

Graden will continue to report to MTV/MTV2 prexy Van Toffler in his role with MTV. He will report to MTV Networks Music Group prexy Judy McGrath — and partner with recently named VH1 general manager Christina Norman — in his role with VH1.

Graden’s first priority, he said, will be to get many new content ideas rolling. “We’re open to anyone anywhere who might help us get a new hit show on VH1,” he said.

A merging of MTV’s and VH1’s programming staffs is “not on the drawing board,” he added. Rather, Graden wants to be sure to build “very separate creative teams.”

As far as the types of programs he’s seeking, Graden said he’s not looking to abandon music-driven shows.

“To dismiss music would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are infinitely more ways to go with music and how music intersects with the lives of people who are no longer (the core MTV target age),” he said.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more