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BREAKING: Tony DiSanto leaving MTV

Tonyliz

UPDATED

After more than 20 years at MTV, programming president Tony DiSanto is exiting the cable net.

DiSanto is grabbing his long-time lieutentant Liz Gateley, and together they’re forming a new production shingle to be named DiGa (the first two letters of both producers’ last name). The duo have sealed a deal to set up shop at Ben Silverman’s Electus production entity.

With DiSanto exiting, it’s believed that David Janollari, who joined MTV in January, will step in as MTV’s new programming president, but no deal has been made.

DiGa will focus on producing reality and scripted series for primetime cable and network outlets, and also plans to enter the feature film and digital domains.

Under the deal, Electus will hold on to exclusive distribution rights for all content created by DiGa. Electus will also work with DiGa on bringing marketing and advertising partners to the duo, and Electus Distribution will handle DiGa programming internationally.

DiSanto and Gateley aren’t severing ties with MTV, however. The duo will now serve as exec producers on four upcoming series, including the new scripted shows “Teen Wolf” and “Skins.”

DiGa has also secured a committment from MTV to produce two more scripted projects. DiSanto and Gateley will also serve as consultants for the channel.

As for Janollari, the move would make sense, as the exec took a bit of a title cut — to exec VP of scripted development — when he first joined MTV. It’s believed that MTV topper Van Toffler has been specifically grooming Janollari to take over once DiSanto exited to pursue his producing ambitions.

A former WB Entertainment prexy (and before that, Greenblatt/Janollari partner), Janollari has moved quickly to ramp up MTV’s scripted output in recent months.

MTV has moved further into the scripted world, recently giving series orders to the coming-of-age entry “That Girl” and the horror comedy “Death Valley.”

Both series, which will bow sometime next year, come on the heels of previously ordered scripted entries “Skins” and “Teen Wolf.” MTV also has a second season on tap of “The Hard Times of RJ Berger.”

As for DiSanto, rumors of his exit have swirled for some time. At different periods of time, he’s been chatted up for broadcast network gigs — but ultimately wanted to try his had at being an independent producer.

“He’s a producer at heart,” said one insider. “It’s good for him and good for MTV.”

DiSanto departs on a high at MTV, which has gotten its groove back as of late thanks to “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom.”

When “Jersey Shore” launched, the show opened to mountains of criticism and so-so ratings. But DiSanto stood by the show, and it soon blossomed into a cultural phenomenon.

DiSanto first joined MTV in 1989 as an intern. He worked his way up through production, eventually co-creating “Total Request Live” with Bob Kusbit and overseeing production for MTV’s Times Square studio, music specials and series, special events and video programming. He later headed up MTV’s east coast development and programming for MTV2.

DiSanto was named president of programming in 2007, and given the challenge of reinventing the MTV brand.

As for Gateley, exec first joined MTV in 2003 as VP of production and development. She joined the cabler from Lifetime, where she was a development exec on shows such as “Strong Medicine” and “The Division.”

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