Signaling a new structure for MTV, the cabler has elevated Van Toffler to the newly created post of general manager. The ascension stems from the exit of Andy Schuon, senior veep of music and programming, who ankled Tuesday.
Rumors of Schuon’s exit had been flying for several months. MTV insiders suggest Schuon took the bullet for the cabler’s lackluster ratings, which have been mostly flat for the past five years.
The new structure has 10-year MTV veteran Toffler assuming the new post of general manager, concentrating on marketing/promotion, consumer products, television and online forays, and overall biz operations.
Toffler was previously exec veep, programming enterprises, and prexy of MTV Prods. He’ll report to MTV prexy Judy McGrath.
The network also announced the promotion of David Sirulnick to exec VP of news and production. He was previously senior veep and exec producer of MTV News.
“To remain a cutting-edge, creative force, MTV has a constant need to revisit our goals — to keep us fresh,” Toffler told Daily Variety. “There’s never a better time than when profits are up to make changes. Keeps you from getting lazy, fat and stupid.”
MTV also aims to send a “clearer message” to the creative community — especially talent — about its desire to do business.
“For us, an important part of this change is letting people know that we’re open to talking about new ideas,” Toffler said.
He said he hopes to continue his work expanding MTV’s brand into the worlds of film, network TV, online offerings and music publishing.
Industry watchers characterized the moves as a “a major shake-up,” and pointed to a number of the network’s shows with low ratings, and a sense of confusion over MTV’s role and changing demographics.
A comparison of ratings showed MTV’s numbers had remained nearly the same, with October ’97 coming in at a .4 (295,000 households) compared with a .4 (281,000 households) for October ’96. MTV also showed an increase in third-quarter revenue for 1997, at $401.5 million, up from $349.3 million.
Betsy Frank, exec VP of research and development for MTV, said the organizational changes will help the network “better reach our core audience of 18- to 24-year-olds.”
While at MTV, Schuon developed shows like “The MTV Beach House” and “Live From the 10 Spot.”
In recent months, he oversaw the network’s move to the new Times Square studio and served as exec producer of the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.
Before MTV, Schuon spent three years as program director at KROQ radio, the tastemaking radio station in Los Angeles.
Schuon has not yet been replaced, although speculation inside and outside MTV has newcomer and development head Brian Graden as an obvious choice.