Game over for GSN’s CEO Cronin

President leaves network after six years

GSN prexy-chief exec Rich Cronin is ankling the games-centric cabler after six years on the job.

Cronin announced the move Tuesday, saying he’ll step down at the end of the month. He didn’t announce his next gig, and GSN owners Sony Pictures TV and Liberty Media didn’t announce a successor. Companies did say they expect to make a hire by month’s end, and people familiar with the situation said talks are under way with one finalist for the job.

“It’s been challenging and exciting, but I’ve been in the same job for six years,” Cronin told Daily Variety. “My contract was up, and I’m fortunate enough to have been rewarded for my success here… I want to move on to something new.”

People familiar with the situation said that Cronin recently snagged a major bonus for his first five years at the cabler. It’s believed he couldn’t begin looking for a new job until formally stepping down from GSN without risking that bonus, something that could explain why he’s leaving without having a new job lined up.

There also have been reports of disagreements between Cronin and some members of the GSN management board, particularly Sony TV topper Steve Mosko. If any of that played into Cronin’s departure, however, nobody was saying so; Mosko, in fact, issued a generous statement praising Cronin’s contributions to the cabler.

GSN board member and Liberty senior VP Michael Zeisser also thanked Cronin “for all his hard work and success.”

During Cronin’s tenure, the cabler more than doubled its distribution and is now seen in 64 million homes. It also changed its name from Game Show Network, de-emphasizing its reliance on classic quizzers in favor of original programming and casino-themed skeins.

GSN’s household ratings in primetime average between 0.3 and 0.4, making it a middle-of-the-pack net. Cronin pointed out that the cabler has always hit its financial and ad-sales targets during his tenure and has turned a handsome profit.

Among the skein’s developed and launched during Cronin’s tenure: “Lingo,” “World Series of Blackjack” and “High Stakes Poker.” He also landed rights to the World Poker Tour (which arrives next year) and dramatically reshaped GSN’s website into a major portal for online games.

Cronin’s departure comes as the net prepares to launch several new high-profile shows, including a remake of the Blighty format “Without Prejudice?” Other skeins in the works include “That’s the Question” and “Grand Slam.”

Cronin will stay on at the network through month’s end and even plans to attend the cabler’s session at the TV Critics Assn. press tour this Saturday. Before arriving at GSN, Cronin spent 14 years at MTV Networks, rising to general manager of Nick at Nite and helping to launch TV Land.

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