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MTV Names Sean Atkins New President

Sean Atkins, a digital-media executive from Discovery Communications, has been named the new president of MTV, taking over from the departing Stephen Friedman.

Atkins will report to Doug Herzog,  president of the Viacom Music and Entertainment Group. MTV’s programming co-heads, Mina Lefevre, executive vice president and head of scripted development; and Lauren Dolgen, head of reality programming and executive vice president of series development, will report directly to Atkins. Atkins will also supervise MTV2 and MTVU.

“Sean is smart, creative, passionate, and remarkably energized about the sea change at hand in our industry,” said Herzog in a prepared statement. “The strength of MTV lies in its ability to constantly reinvent, and Sean’s forward thinking, versatile leadership will ensure our brand and business continue to evolve and deliver for our audience.”

Atkins joins MTV at a critical moment. The network’s ratings, like those of many operated by parent company Viacom, have slumped, and its identity is somewhat undetermined after building a schedule filled with reality programs. MTV has recently begun to invest in higher-quality scripted fare, including a series based on the “Scream” movie franchise and another based on Terry Brooks’ “Shannara” fantasy books. The network has also launched late-night programming featuring comedians.

Atkins had been general manager and executive vice president of digital media and strategy at Discovery Communications, where he supervised  online video strategy and streaming-video networks including Revision3, SourceFed, Discovery News, and TestTube. Atkins was one of the forces behind Discovery’s 2012 acquisition of millennial-focused Revision3, among the first strategic acquisitions of a multi-channel network by a major media and entertainment company.

Atkins joined Discovery Communications from HBO where, as senior vice president of digital media, he
helped  build the platform that ultimately became HBOGo. He also served as head of
programming and development at Yahoo! Entertainment, where he oversaw content development. His resume includes stints working for Warner Brothers and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures.

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