McGrath to Head MTVN; Rosenthal Resigns

Viacom Inc. co-president Tom Freston has selected MTV Group president Judy McGrath to succeed him as head of MTV Networks.

McGrath -- whom many considered to be the odds-on favorite to replace Freston atop MTVN since his elevation early last month -- was named Tuesday as chairman and CEO of the Viacom unit that houses such cable-network jewels as Nickelodeon and MTV: Music Television.

McGrath’s promotion evidently had immediate fallout: MTVN president, chief operating officer and ad-sales boss Mark Rosenthal tendered his resignation, effective immediately. Rosenthal was one of the other leading candidates for the post, along with MTVN Group president Herb Scannell and Bill Roedy, president of MTVN International.

McGrath said she had not yet made a decision about who would succeed her in her old role or who would take Rosenthal’s place. “I’m going to think about that, but not take too long,” she said. “We have a lot of talented people working in the organization.”

In her new role, McGrath -- who was responsible for MTV, MTV2, VH1, Country Music Television, Comedy Central and Logo, the gay-targeted channel that is slated to bow next February, as MTV Group president -- is also now responsible for Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Spike TV, TV Land, Noggin, The N, MTV Networks Digital Suite, MTV Networks International and all of the company's related consumer products and digital businesses.

Scannell -- who had oversight for Nick, Nick at Nite, Spike, TV Land, Noggin and The N -- will report directly to McGrath, along with Roedy.

Freston said McGrath was his choice all along, as he had thought about succession plans in the event that he would have left Viacom. “I knew what I wanted to do immediately,” he added.

He noted that while each of the candidates held particular strengths and talents -- Scannell as top programmer, Roedy for his international acumen and Rosenthal his overall business sense -- McGrath got the nod due to her sense of the company’s culture and her ability to nurture talent.

“First and foremost, this is a creative company,” Freston said. “Judy has the ability to recognize talent and get people to come up with the best ideas and work to the best of their abilities.”

McGrath said she had thought about the possibilities of succeeding Freston over their 17 years of working together, adding that it was an “awesome opportunity.” Yet she recognizes that she has tough shoes to fill. “It’s like coming in behind a great jazz musician, Eric Clapton or Bono,” she said.

McGrath said she spoke with Scannell and Roedy Tuesday morning, and both were very supportive. She added that she had worked closely with them, as well as Rosenthal, over the past 18 months and “learned a lot about their roles.” She said she has great admiration for Scannell and Roedy and wants to “champion their work.”

She added that Rosenthal’s departure was bittersweet, but she recognized that “he wants to lead a company. He wants to follow that dream personally, and I’m sure there will be plenty of offers.”

Freston’s former slot became available in early June when he and CBS Television Network CEO Leslie Moonves were both promoted to the Viacom co-president position in the wake of the departure of former Viacom president and COO Mel Karmazin.