In another step toward integrating CBS and Viacom’s assets following the announced merger of the two entertainment entities earlier this year, the combined company is solidifying its executive suite ahead of the transaction’s close.
Among the most notable changes on the content side: CBS chief creative officer David Nevins is adding oversight of Viacom-owned BET Networks, while MTV/VH1 chief Chris McCarthy will take over Comedy Central, Paramount Network and other channels as longtime Comedy Central chief Kent Alterman and Viacom media networks COO Sarah Levy exit the company.
Additionally, head of Nickelodeon Brian Robbins is now assuming the title of president, kids and family entertainment at ViacomCBS’s domestic media networks unit. He will be reunited with AwesomenessTV, the company he founded that is now being brought under his purview. Jim Gianopulos will continue to oversee filmed entertainment as chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, and Carolyn Kroll Reidy will continue to oversee the company’s publishing assets as president and CEO of Simon & Schuster.
These executive shifts will go into effect upon the close of the Viacom-CBS union, which is expected to happen as soon as early December, with the combined company to be led by current Viacom chief Bob Bakish.
For Nevins, this marks an expansion of oversight. He was once the chairman of premium cabler Showtime before being elevated to his current position, and the news follows the move to put CBS ad sales chief Jo Ann Ross in charge of ad sales at a combined ViacomCBS, which Variety learned exclusively at the end of October.
He has thus far been responsible for programming, marketing and research at CBS Television Studios, CBS’ entertainment division and Showtime and Pop, among other properties. Nevins will hand off the reins of Smithsonian Channel to McCarthy, who will now also begin to steer TV Land. Current BET president Scott Mills will continue to head the network, but will now report to Nevins.
As part of the structural changes, Nevins will also oversee the newly formed Content Council designed to maximize programming assets across the combined company.
Among the changes on the digital side: CBS Interactive president and CEO Marc DeBevoise will oversee all digital operations at ViacomCBS as chief digital officer. Viacom Digital Studios head Kelly Day and CBS chief technology officer Phil Wiser — now head of technology at ViacomCVS — will report to DeBevoise. Tom Ryan, the CEO and co-founder of Viacom’s free AVOD Pluto TV, will continue to oversee the streaming service.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news on Sunday.
“ViacomCBS will be one of the largest premium content creators in the world, with the capacity to produce content for both our own platforms and for others,” said Bakish in a statement, released Monday. “This talented team of content leaders will work together to ensure we realize the full power of our brands, our deep relationships with the creative community and our intellectual property to drive our growth as a combined company.”
Both Alterman and Levy will exit after the transaction closes in early December. During his time presiding over Comedy Central, Alterman developed some of the channels most highly regarded series, including “Broad City,” “Key & Peele” and “Inside Amy Schumer.”
Alterman, who worked for Comedy Central from 1996-2000, returned as head of programming in 2010. He is well-liked among Comedy Central insiders for his quirky sensibilities, and often rode his bike to work. Alterman penned a note to staffers after news of the restructuring broke Sunday afternoon. The subject line read: “We all get a turn; now it’s mine.”
Dear Treasured Colleagues,
Some of the most inventive fiction I’ve read comes in the form of farewell emails, so I’ll resist the temptation to be creative and try to be factual and brief. I apologize in advance if I’m not able to deliver on that.
As you have likely heard, I’m leaving my position as head of the Entertainment group. I’m not going to brag about all we’ve accomplished together (another temptation resisted). Instead, I will tell you how grateful I am. We were given a rare opportunity to create and maintain our own culture within the confines of an ever-changing and challenging corporate environment. While some might call me delusional, I contend that our ethos is defined by passion, respect, strong points of view, collaboration and kindness to each other. Dare I call it soulful? Maybe I just did.
We don’t give lip service to these things – we live them. On a daily basis. When I was offered the position of President of Comedy Central a few years ago, I was honestly not sure I wanted to accept. I worried it would take me too far away from the creative process, which is what attracted me to this business in the first place. Instead of fretting about that, I decided to embrace the opportunity and really lean into the leadership aspects of the job. I have been continually stunned by how deeply fulfilling leading this group has been for me. I’ve made smart bets on talented people who always make me appear to be smarter than I am. Together, we have shaped an organization that fills me with immense pride.
I don’t want to turn this into a name-checking email – if you don’t personally know how appreciative I am, then I have failed and I’m sorry. Thank you for being such a stellar group of humans. Thank you for letting me be myself. You have allowed me to take a strong stand on things, for right or wrong. More importantly, you have also allowed me to be transparent about the things I don’t know without feeling diminished or compromised.
I remind you that everything we do is driven by the talent with whom we work. I am forever grateful to all the artists who have chosen to trust us, especially with so many options available in the marketplace. This is something I never take for granted, and I urge you not to either. No matter how risky or uncertain our jobs can feel (and believe me, I’m in touch with that right now), please remember we are dependent on talent, and they are always in a more vulnerable position than we are.
As disruption and cataclysmic change have become the norm in our business, I remind you that change creates anxiety, but it also creates opportunity. How you respond to uncertainty has the potential to help you grow and make you stronger. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Please continue to act in good faith with your colleagues and collaborators. This is what allows you to assume the same in them, fostering trust and a spirit of being in it together.
I’ve been so fortunate to work with all of you and be the steward of great brands. We have managed to create real meaning and relevance in Comedy Central, and Paramount Network is emerging in such an exciting way. These brands are the North Star of everything we do, and I hope their essence will continue to guide you moving forward.
Addressing an email to “Comedy Central_ALL, Paramount Network_ALL and TVLand_All” for the last time fills me with deep sadness and intense joy simultaneously. Or, put another way, the richness of being alive. Being in it with you these past years has been a privilege and honor. I will always be in your debt. If I can repay you along the way, I am always available to be helpful in any way I can.
With love, respect and appreciation, I remain,
(Pictured: David Nevins)