Viacom’s MTV named Jacqueline Parkes, the former chief marketing officer for Major League Baseball, as executive vice president of marketing and creative, and Eli Lehrer, formerly senior vice president and head of non-fiction programming at Lifetime, to oversee MTV2 as executive vice president, the network’s latest moves in its quest to turn around its TV ratings and become more relevant to a new and harder-to-reach generation of young viewers.
Both will report to MTV President Sean Atkins. Parkes is expected to guide marketing efforts and shape the brand as executives work to turn around its ratings and make it relevant to a new generation of viewers who don’t see TV as their primary means of gaining access to entertainment. Parkes will oversee marketing for MTV, MTV2, mtVU, MTV Life, MTV Digital and MTV News. Lehrer will be responsible for the brand vision, voice, and creative pipeline for MTV2.
Two Viacom executives will move into new roles at MTV. Kristin Frank, formerly executive vice president of connected content for MTV and VH1, will take on a new role as executive vice president of strategy, revenue and operations. Erik Flannigan, formerly executive vice president at Viacom’s Music & Entertainment Group, will join MTV full-time in the newly created role of executive vice president of music/events strategy and development.
Parkes spent 21 years at Major League Baseball, where she supervised everything from advertising and promotion to ticketing analytics and community relations. She was the League’s first chief marketing officer, and instrumental in promoting everything from the World Series to the All-Star Game, to name just a few of the sport’s properties. At Lifetime, Lehrer oversaw “Project Runway” and developed series such as “The Rap Game” and “Bring It!”
Parkes suggested new messages are coming from MTV. “It is definitely a time of re-imagining and reinvention and we will be listening to our fans and their needs,” she said in an interview. “I think you should expect to see some really disruptive kinds of creative from us and our marketing.”
The executive appointments come as Viacom has put more emphasis on reviving MTV, which has suffered ratings and ad-revenue declines in recent years, The parent company is also intent on filling its executive ranks, which were thinned out in a wide-scale $784 million restructuring that took place in the first quarter of 2015. At that time Viacom reworked three operating units into two, and some veterans left of their own volition or due to staffing reductions. A number of MTV veterans were among their number.
Now, said Scott Mills, Viacom’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer, has sought out executives with experience in new areas, including digital, data science, engineering, as well as different kinds of creative expertise. He estimated that Viacom has hired 30% more employees in its fiscal year to date than it did in the-year earlier period. When it comes to hiring for MTV, he said, the mission is “less about the thing that MTV was, and much more about what MTV needs to be given who is audience is.