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MTV President Sean Atkins to Leave After One Year

A little more than a year after taking the helm at MTV, Sean Atkins is stepping down, Variety has confirmed. Atkins will remain on in a consulting capacity through January. Deadline first reported the news Monday morning.

Atkins had overseen the launches of multiple new MTV series over his one-year tenure, including “Mary + Jane” and “Loosely Exactly Nicole,” and MTV’s Snapchat Discover channel. Atkins also over saw the massive reboot of MTV News, which relaunched with a whole new digital identity earlier in 2016. “This is a brand that has always been about elevating youth voices, artists and creators, a brand that was born from music and pop culture. We want to remember that heritage and reinvigorate that creative spark around those precepts,” Atkins told Variety in February. “MTV News is the first place for this kind of refocus.”

Atkins came from Discovery, where he was general manager and executive vice president of digital media and strategy. He was chosen by Viacom Music and Entertainment Group president Doug Herzog at the end of September 2015 to ride herd on MTV, MTV2 and MTVU, replacing Stephen Friedman. Word on Atkins’ replacement should come down shortly.

The reason for the sudden departure is that of many of Atkins’ predecessors: Ratings. Despite some gains, in the nine weeks from late August through mid-October, MTV’s ratings deliveries to advertisers (C3 ratings) in the 12-34 demographic were down an average of 17% from 2015.

Here’s the e-mail Atkins sent out this morning:

I apologize for the shock to your Monday morning, but I have some news to share that will come as a surprise. I have decided to step down from my post as President of MTV. I’ll be consulting on the transition through January in an advisory role.

I will leave it to Doug to fill you in on the details, but suffice it to say this was in no way an easy decision for me. This has been an incredibly enriching and rewarding experience, and I thank every single one of you for that. I am so proud of what this team has accomplished together. We’ve filled the creative pipeline with so many new projects and producers. Amazing projects like “Sweet/Vicious,” “Stranded with a Million Bucks,” “Signed” and “Going Off” are just around the corner. We’ve moved aggressively to recapture music as our muse with projects like “Made in Compton,” “Wonderland” and “Virtually Famous” just to name a few. We’re taking the time and care to do smart thinking around the brand and vision for MTV, including bringing in new media and creative agencies to back our new brand campaign. We’ve continued to invest into our future with the successful growth of our Snapchat Discover channel, social footprint and MTV News. And we’ve continued to be an incredible social voice with our Elect This campaign and launch of our new documentary unit. This tremendous creative effort is a recipe for success and it will pay off.

I’m so deeply impressed with the team here and so grateful to have been part of it. You have unbelievable drive and dedication, unstoppable creative passion and are relentlessness in attacking challenges from every possible angle. This speaks volumes about the amazing MTV culture and your commitment to this brand.

Thank you so much, and a special word of thanks to my incredible senior team, for pushing and inspiring me every day.

You will all be in very good hands as I move on, I assure you. And I promise I will be watching and cheering as you continue to build up from the great foundation we created together.

– Sean

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