Chris McCarthy has been given oversight of MTV along with his current supervision of VH1 and Logo, Viacom said Monday, adding to the executive’s portfolio at a time when the New York entertainment conglomerate is under severe pressure to make many of its TV outlets more relevant to a younger generation that has embraced mobile devices and streaming video.
McCarthy takes up duties very recently held by Sean Atkins, who was named MTV’s president at the end of September in 2015. Atkins had focused on a re-launch of MTV News, a renewed emphasis on music and the launch of shows that mixed edgy subjects and millennial humor. One program readied under his aegis, “Sweet/Vicious,” touches upon rape culture and sexual harassment while focusing on two women at a college who take up campus vigilantism. It is set to debut in mid-November.
Despite the new attention paid to what has become a flagging pop-culture brand, the needle on ratings had yet to move significantly. Commercial ratings for Viacom’s cable networks among viewers between 18 and 49 fell about 9% in August, compared to the previous year, according to research from independent analyst Michael Nathanson.
In McCarthy, Viacom has an executive who focuses intently on audience behavior. He is known to scrutinize programming for the appeal it will have with audiences watching it on mobile devices on demand. He has brought new life to VH1 by emphasizing shows that utilize celebrities in intriguing ways alongside “event” programming. Under his aegis, VH1 is rebooting the venerable CW program “America’s Next Top Model,” and preparing to launch the oddball combination of Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg in “Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.” VH1 has also hosted a town hall on gun violence moderated by Common and Ice Cube, and greenlit a move that will transform an original scripted VH1 movie, “The Breaks” to full series.
“Chris has infused every brand he’s led with creativity, strategic clarity and distinctive talent – driving results that defy this extraordinarily competitive landscape,” said Doug Herzog, president of Viacom’s entertainment and music-focused cable networks, in a statement. “MTV is an iconic brand full of opportunity, and Chris has demonstrated the vision and ability to grow its expansive reach and powerful cultural impact.”
McCarthy has risen through the ranks at Viacom. Prior to joining VH1, he oversaw MTV2 and Logo. He steered the latter network to focus on documentaries, while gaining new attention for the series “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” He was named general manager of MTV2 in 2010, and helped launch series including “Guy Code” and “Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out.” He began his career at Viacom at mtvU before rising to be named general manager for the college network. He earned an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a degree with honors in commerce and engineering from Drexel University.