The company is expected to unveil the new president of what is arguably its flagship network tomorrow morning.
Friedman, who joined the company in 1998, told staffers in a memo that “My next adventure will be focused full time on giving back, on social impact, and on applying what I’ve learned from MTV about the power of brands and storytelling to create positive change. ” He initially came aboard MTV to create a unit to oversee strategic “pro-social” initiatives, like an anti-discrimination effort called “Fight For Your Rights.”
Friedman had informed the company of his desire to leave in April, according to a memo released Thursday from Doug Herzog, who leads Viacom’s music and entertainment networks. Friedman’s departure is not related to a March restructuring that resulted in the departures of a number of the company’s most senior executives as well as a $785 million charge. according to a person familiar with the network.
But when Van Toffler, the former head of MTV, VH1 and other networks left the company in February to start a career as an independent producer, Friedman saw an opportunity to consider other career possibilities, this person said. Susanne Daniels, another senior MTV executive, left in July to join YouTube.
In the memo, Herzog praised the executive not only for the programs he launched at MTV, but also for the performance of other networks under his aegis, specifically MTV2 and Logo.
At the same time, MTV has been hit by ratings declines that have drawn investor scrutiny of Viacom and its leadership. Ratings in primetime for viewers between 18 and 49 at MTV were down 23% for the week lasting between September 14 and September 20, according to data from Bernstein Research analyst Todd Juenger.
During Friedman’s time as president, MTV delved even further into reality programming designed to reflect the cultural values of millennial viewers. Some of the series drew critical brickbats and spurred debate. At the same time, “Teen Mom” got people talking about the issue of teen pregnancy.
“What MTV understood at its inception, a growing part of the world is now actively pursuing,” Friedman said in his memo. “We’re in the midst of a boom of mission driven companies that are redefining business while tackling some of the biggest social challenges we face.”