Viacom CEO Bob Bakish has tapped an 18-year company veteran to lead its domestic and international cable operations with the appointment of Sarah Levy as chief operating officer of Viacom’s Global Entertainment Group.
Levy will oversee operations and strategy for MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Spike, CMT, TV Land, Logo and Viacom International Media Networks, the latter being the division Bakish headed for a decade before he was elevated to CEO in October. Levy will oversee a broad swath of Viacom’s businesses with the exception of Nickelodeon, BET and Paramount Pictures. She has a mandate to increase coordination and collaboration across the various networks. She reports to Bakish.
“Viacom is committed to making the changes necessary to enhance performance, and we are deeply focused on increasing coordination and collaboration across our individual brands,” Bakish said. “Aligning these network operations under Sarah represents an important step forward to becoming a stronger and more integrated organization. In Sarah’s nearly 20 years at Viacom, she has established a strong track record of success, and has been a key leader at Nickelodeon, helping to drive the network’s long-range strategy and the continued dominance of the brand across every screen and revenue stream.”
Levy’s appointment is the latest sign of rebuilding under Bakish at Viacom, which has struggled during the past two years with internal management turmoil and external forces pressuring its core cable business. Bakish has moved quickly to reorganize Viacom’s cable operations in an effort to reinvigorate its core brands.
Wall Street has reacted favorably to Bakish’s moves over the past few weeks. Shares were up more than 2% in trading Thursday following the news of Levy’s appointment.
Levy most recently had served as COO of Viacom’s Kids and Family Group, encompassing Nickelodeon. It’s unclear how her role will be filled in the kidvid group, led by Cyma Zarghami.
Levy echoed Bakish’s assertion that the restructuring of cable operations will be a boon to Viacom’s core cable brands, which have suffered ratings declines amid the explosion of competition and multiplatform viewing options.
“By taking a holistic view of our networks and establishing a unified and complementary strategy, we will capture the many opportunities that exist to optimize our portfolio for the benefit of our company, distributors and audiences,” Levy said.
Levy joined Nickelodeon in 1998 as director of business development. She rose through the ranks to oversee consumer products and ad sales. She’s also credited with leading Viacom’s acquisition of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise in 2009.
Before Nickelodeon, Levy worked at Disney and Goldman Sachs.
Here is the memo from Viacom CEO Bob Bakish announcing Levy’s promotion:
Happy New Year and welcome back! I hope you had a restful and happy holiday season.
I’m pleased to start the New Year by announcing our first Global Entertainment Group (GEG) executive appointment. Sarah Levy, a long-time member of the Nickelodeon team, has been appointed Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Global Entertainment Group, effective immediately.
In this new role, Sarah will take a holistic approach to overseeing strategy and operations for the GEG networks, which include MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Spike, TV Land, CMT, Logo and Viacom International Media Networks. She will report directly to me and have oversight of the following functions across the GEG group: Operations, Production Management, Digital, Strategy & Business Development, Research, Content & Programming Enterprises, and Content Distribution for GEG. Sarah will also work closely with the Finance, Business & Legal Affairs and Human Resources functions.
Many of you will know Sarah, who’s been part of the Viacom family for nearly 20 years, most recently serving as COO of the Kids and Family Group, and COO of Nickelodeon prior to that role. During this time, she’s been a key driver of Nickelodeon’s long-range strategy and the continued growth and dominance of the Nickelodeon brand across every screen and revenue stream. Over her tenure, Sarah has overseen a wide range of Nickelodeon departments from Ad Sales to Consumer Products to managing the Nicktoons and TeenNick networks. Her many achievements include the acquisition and incredible growth of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, which has become a massive cross-platform success, generating more than $700 million at the global box office and over $5 billion at retail. She spearheaded our partnership with Spin Master Entertainment for the number-one preschool property PAW Patrol, and has helped develop other key strategic partnerships in consumer products and recreation.
Sarah comes to us at a time when the Nick brand and organization could not be in a stronger place. Under Cyma’s leadership, Nick just finished its second straight year at number one with kids and total viewers, with many of the top shows and ever-increasing share of mind with kids. In addition, the network continues to build its leading consumer products business, and is growing its strong presence in key markets overseas. Nickelodeon’s success has always been due to its incredibly talented team, and I am fully confident that they have the skills, resources and creativity to stay #1 for years to come.
Please join me in congratulating Sarah on her new role. I’ve known her for years and she is a dynamic executive, fantastic strategist and energizes everyone around her – a perfect fit for this important new position. As I’ve said before, I truly believe we need to work in a more coordinated and collaborative way to realize Viacom’s full potential, including better sharing of resources and expertise. By aligning GEG operations, we’re taking an important step towards becoming a more integrated organization.