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

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.

More Music

  • Richie Sambora

    Hipgnosis Songs Acquires Catalog From Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora

    Hipgnosis Songs has acquired a music catalog from Richie Sambora. The guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer is best known for his tenure as a member of Bon Jovi. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. According to an announcement released March 30, Hipgnosis has acquired 100% of Sambora’s [...]

  • Gerard Schurmann, Film and TV Composer,

    Gerard Schurmann, Film and TV Composer, Dies at 96

    Gerard Schurmann, whose 1960s film scores included “The Bedford Incident” and “Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow” but who also composed extensively for the concert hall, died March 24 at his home in the Hollywood Hills. The cause of death was not announced; he was 96. Schurmann’s death was announced by his music publisher, Novello & [...]

  • Micheal Stipe

    Michael Stipe Unveils Collaboration With The National’s Aaron Dessner (Watch)

    R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe took to YouTube today (March 29) to premiere what he described as the “first take” of “No Time for Love Like Now,” a new solo ballad written in collaboration with The National’s Aaron Dessner. In the clip, Stipe sings live over an electronic beat playing from an unseen speaker. Although written last [...]

  • john prine

    John Prine Reported in Critical Condition With Coronavirus Symptoms

    Singer-songwriter John Prine, who received a Grammy lifetime achievement award this year, is in critical condition with symptoms of coronavirus, his family relayed via his Twitter account Sunday. “After a sudden onset of Covid-19 symptoms, John was hospitalized on Thursday (3/26),” the statement from the Prine family said. “He was intubated Saturday evening, and continues [...]

  • Joe Diffie12th Annual ACM Honors, Show,

    Joe Diffie, '90s Country Music Star, Dies of Coronavirus at 61

    Joe Diffie, an icon to many country fans for his string of No. 1 hits in the 1990s, has died from complications related to the coronavirus, a spokesperson revealed Sunday afternoon. He was 61. “Grammy-winning country music legend Joe Diffie passed away today, Sunday, March 29, from complications of coronavirus (COVID-19),” the statement read simply. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content