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Spike’s Tom Zappala Departs; Channel Reorganizes Ahead of Paramount Network Launch

Viacom’s Spike TV is experiencing a shake-up ahead of its January relaunch as Paramount Network. The reorganization will see programming head Tom Zappala depart and several executives from sister channel TV Land assume new leadership roles at Spike. The two channels and CMT are also undergoing a layoff that will affect fewer than 20 employees.

Coming aboard are Karen Cummins, who will serve as senior VP, marketing partnerships for Paramount Network and TV Land; Scott Gregory, senior VP, programming, media planning and acquisitions, Paramount Network and TV Land; and Deva Newman, senior VP, creative for Paramount Network, who will focus on scripted programming.

The moves continue the broad restructuring of Spike parent Viacom’s television division that began in February, when Viacom CEO Bob Bakish laid out his strategic vision for the media company. Key to that vision was the planned relaunch of male-skewing Spike as Paramount Network, a general-entertainment channel that would be the centerpiece of what Bakish described as a core of six U.S. cable brands — BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon, and Paramount.

The strategy also relegated the company’s remaining brands, including TV Land, CMT, VH1, and Logo, to second-tier status. Since then, Viacom has moved to centralize programming operations at several channels. Spike president Kevin Kay gained oversight of CMT and TV Land in February. Three weeks later, TV Land development head Keith Cox was given oversight of programming for Spike and CMT. Shortly thereafter, “Heathers” and “American Woman,” two series Cox had been developing at TV Land, were moved to Paramount Network.

Zappala’s departure comes on the same day that CMT programming chief Jayson Dinsmore departed that channel. With the exit of Zappala and and Dinsmore, programming at Spike (which relaunches as Paramount Network in January), CMT, and TV Land has been fully centralized under Cox, reporting to Kay.

The organizational changes were announced to staff Tuesday in two memos from Kay. Read both below. On Zappala’s departure:

Team- I have an organizational update. Tom Zappala is stepping down from his role as EVP of Programming for Spike.

During his six-year tenure, Tom has become a beloved member of my senior team and a trusted advisor. He’s a seasoned executive and Zen master of scheduling. And I’m particularly going to miss his magnifying glass devotion to the schedule and all the small print he is famous for!

He’s an amazing manager and tremendous partner for all of us, held in the highest regard by his team and everyone at Spike. His keen eye towards smart acquisitions and media planning made him a true asset.

He’s been a driving force behind the success of Spike and a key architect as we gear up to launch Paramount Network early next year. I thank him for all of his many contributions over the years.

I will update you soon on new programming leadership, but for now please join me in thanking Tom and wishing him well on his next adventure.

Kevin

 

On Cummins, Gregory, and Newman:

Team–

I have some important organizational news to share with you. We’re making a few changes at Paramount Network (Spike), CMT and TV Land to better align and strengthen our brands with the goal of breaking down silos and helping our teams share insights, resources and expertise.

With the launch of Paramount Network a few short months away, we’re enlisting many of our top TV Land performers in marketing, creative and programming across TV Land to work with the team on Paramount Network. Our goal is to make Paramount Network a premium destination that pushes the limits of storytelling with bold original scripted and non-scripted series. As some of the architects behind the successful TV Land rebrand and the launch of critically acclaimed and fan-favorite hits like “Younger” and “Teachers,” this new structure enables us to take the deep insights and expertise of TV Land’s team and apply them to Paramount Network as we gear up to launch next year, while also continuing our creative and ratings resurgence at TV Land.

Karen Cummins will serve as SVP, Marketing Partnerships for Paramount Network and TV Land. She will also continue to oversee off-channel marketing for original series at TV Land. She will report to Niels Schuurmans, Chief Marketing Officer for Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT with a dotted line to Frank Tanki, General Manager of CMT and TV Land.

Scott Gregory has been appointed to the newly created role of SVP, Programming, Media Planning & Acquisitions, Paramount Network & TV Land, and will lead the unified programming and media planning team. He will be responsible for managing content and scheduling across all platforms for both brands. He will report into Kay with a dotted line to Tanki.

Deva Newman will serve as SVP, Creative for Paramount Network with a focus on scripted reporting into Terry Minoque, and SVP, Creative Director for TV Land, with a dotted line to Tanki.

These appointments come on the heels of record growth. TV Land is on track to have its best fiscal year since 2014.Total day ratings are up 9% year-over-year; notching 10 months of consecutive ratings growth. Quarter-to-date, TV Land is experiencing the highest year-on-year growth of any top 20 non-news cable network. “Younger” continues to shatter ratings records and this season is pacing to be its most watched and highest rated yet. Under Frank’s leadership, we’ll continue that momentum with a mix of new and returning premium scripted series.

CMT is also having a banner year with ratings up across all dayparts driving more than 9 months of year-over-year growth and its best fiscal year since 2014. “Nashville” has become a signature hit and now ranks as the most watched and highest rated series in CMT history and the seminal fan-favorite unscripted series “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team” is now notching its best ratings in 6 years. Under Frank’s leadership, we will launch series tailored to the new and geographically diverse audience we’ve attracted this past year, while expanding our footprint in digital/social to own the country lifestyle space and exploring partnerships to extend this palpable and distinct brand beyond the linear screen.

As part of these strategic changes at the brands and group levels, some roles across Paramount Network (Spike), CMT and TV Land have been impacted. Please know that we weighed this matter very seriously; however, after careful consideration we determined it was an essential step to evolve and grow our brands. The staff members who have been impacted were notified earlier today.

We are incredibly grateful to all of our employees who have contributed to our brands, many of whom we have worked alongside for many years. We are committed to ensuring they are treated with the highest level of fairness, gratitude and respect throughout this process.

We have an ambitious year ahead as we launch Paramount Network and continue to build upon the success of both TV Land and CMT. Together, we will build the best collection of brands to serve our audiences.

Thank you all for your unwavering commitment and continued hard work and support over these past several months.

Kevin

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