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Game Over for Cronin at GSN

GSN CEO Rich Cronin is resigning and will leave the network at the end of the month.

Cronin, head of GSN for the past six years, will continue to work closely with the network’s team and with clients to insure a smooth transition until he leaves, GSN said. The network is co-owned by Liberty Media and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

GSN issued a press release saying that Cronin was announcing his resignation, and that the company expects to name a successor within the next few weeks.

Sources said Cronin will receive a bonus for reaching long-term growth goals set in his five-year contract. Cronin told Multichannel News he stayed one year longer than his original contract because he wanted to see to fruition some of his programming initiatives, such as the debut of reality/game show Without Prejudice?, which will begin running on the network this month.

He said he believes his greatest accomplishment at the network has been leading the charge toward participatory TV with the addition of play-along elements to GSN programming. Although Cronin's background has been in traditional, linear TV, he believes the interactive experience will broaden the number of areas where he might take a job next. He has not talked with prospective employers at this point, however, he said.

Cronin will represent the company at the upcoming Television Critics Association meeting and at the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s CTAM Summit in Washington, D.C., beginning July 22.

“I am honored to have led a great team of creative businesspeople in pioneering interactive-television games and in growing GSN so dramatically,” Cronin said in a prepared statement. “Together we have built a strong business that combines GSN television, GSN.com, mobile/text participation and other digital media.”

Cronin joined GSN as president and CEO in 2001 after Liberty bought one-half of the company from Sony Pictures Entertainment. During Cronin’s six years as chief executive, he brought GSN to profitability; it expanded its distribution from 31 million homes to 64 million; the network pioneered interactive-TV games and participation TV in the United States; and GSN.com was transformed from a promotional site into a destination for interactive play-along and online casual and cash games.

Under Cronin’s watch, GSN’s programming was expanded to include new originals such as interactive game show Lingo.

“We appreciate everything Rich has done to build GSN and bring it to profitability in a very competitive environment,” GSN board member Steve Mosko, president of Sony Pictures Television, said in a prepared statement.

GSN’s highest-rated show is High Stakes Poker, with a 0.4 Nielsen Media Research household average, and the network recorded a 0.3 household rating in primetime during the second quarter.