MTV upheaval sees Asia prexy exit

Web cuts 84 staffers as Robbins ankles

Change continues to roil MTV around the world: MTV Asia’s prexy of nine months, Nigel Robbins, will ankle at year’s end. Exec veep/chief operating officer Steven Tan will take the reins until Robbins’ successor is found.

Move came as MTV Networks Asia Pacific announced it will ax 84 Singapore-based staffers “to advance the company’s ongoing localization strategy throughout the region,” company said in a release.

When he started in January, Robbins oversaw 118 staffers. Ironically, he is credited with the latest “stream-lining” that coincides with his departure.

MTV Networks Intl. prexy Bill Roedy in London outlined the rationale behind the cuts. New structure sees regional functions and corporate roles decentralized from Singapore “to shift the focus of resources to local markets and fully empower local operations to drive all of their TV and digital media businesses,” he said.

MTV has pursued a localization strategy since its 1995 entry into the Asia region. But as with many of its pay TV peers, this may have been more by necessity than design. Starting with just two MTV channels in 1995, a region as diverse as Asia Pacific prompted rapid localization by language, feed and content.

Because advertising budgets are rarely handled by region, but by country, in-market advertising sales offices were set up. Also, country-specific feeds were introduced to appeal to local advertisers.

MTV Networks Asia Pacific now has 22 television networks and programming blocks, 17 Web sites and various Asia-specific digital media platforms across the region.

The increasing number of platforms, not only pay TV but branded blocks on terrestrial TV, Internet, broadband and mobile phone, demands dedicated local staffers.

Certain markets, possibly those not yet mature enough to operate independently, will come under a new Singapore-based unit to manage MTV and Nickelodeon’s Southeast Asia TV and digital media businesses. Leading that unit is Christopher Steward, exec veep, Viacom Brand Solutions & Southeast Asia; he’ll report to the prexy of MTV Networks Asia Pacific.

Separately, MTV Networks India has hired Nina Jaipuria as head of Nickelodeon India, a position left vacant by the August departure of Hema Govindan.

Jaipuria, previously with Sony Entertainment Television, will be VP/general manager and will report to Amit Jain, managing director, MTV Networks India/exec VP, MTV Networks Asia.

(Shilpa Bharatan Iyer in Mumbai contributed to this report.)

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