Judy McGrath Hands Over Reins at Sony-Backed Astronauts Wanted to Michael Davies (EXCLUSIVE)

Studio shifts home from Sony Music to Sony Pictures TV's Embassy Row

Judy McGrath Hands Over Reins Sony-Backed
Astronauts Wanted/REX/Shutterstock

Former MTV Networks CEO Judy McGrath is stepping down from the top role at Astronauts Wanted, the production outfit she formed in partnership with Sony Music Entertainment in 2013.

Astronauts Wanted will part ways with Sony Music and move over to Embassy Row, a production company at Sony Pictures Television where it will continue to operate under the oversight of Michael Davies. McGrath will segue to a new role as an advisor and remain an executive producer on upcoming Astronauts Wanted productions.

“Michael Davies has built a terrific team, brand and business with Embassy Row, and I’m excited to join his venture into scripted content for young adults,” McGrath said in a statement provided to Variety. “We launched Astronauts Wanted with Sony Music Entertainment and I’m happy to stay connected to the Sony family for the next Astronauts adventure.”

Not long after she departed MTV in 2011, McGrath teamed with Sony Music to launch Astronauts Wanted in the hopes of creating a new youth-focused media property for digital-native consumers. Its original ambitions to create a female-friendly brand to rival other digital darlings like Vice Media gave way to becoming a studio capable of creating content for other new media platforms.

After creating a number of unscripted projects with branded-entertainment elements like “Hey USA” with Conde Nast, Astronauts Wanted shifted again to focus on scripted content that could work on either traditional TV networks or streaming services. It’s a pivot many production outfits have had to make given the limited returns of digital content as opposed to the broader, more lucrative scripted marketplace.

However, Astronauts Wanted hasn’t sold any scripted series beyond a pilot, “Socio,” to MTV. Its development slate is still largely scripted content, a focus that it will maintain at Embassy, which is more active in unscripted TV like Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” and Netflix’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to diversify our portfolio, so it made sense to move Astronauts Wanted, with its emphasis on scripted content, over to Embassy Row, keeping it under the Sony banner,” said Davies in a statement  provided to Variety. “I look forward to working with Judy McGrath to develop content for the next generation.”

Unknown at this point is whether everyone currently in the Astronauts Wanted staff is coming over from Sony Music to SPT. The company currently has approximately 16 employees including chief creative strategist Nick Shore, another veteran MTV exec McGrath recruited for her new effort.

McGrath was one of the key executives instrumental for the rise of MTV in the over three decades she spent with the company. Under her oversight, the network evolved from a music-video hub to a bona fide cultural phenomenon with generation-defining series including “The Real World” and “Jersey Shore.”

McGrath remains on the board of directors at Amazon. She is handing the reins over to Davies, best known as the producer of ABC megahit “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” He sold Embassy Row to Sony in 2009.