MTV Reshapes Development, Production Teams

In the wake of his sudden promotion last month, MTV development chief Tony DiSanto has restructured his senior development and production group, creating a three-pronged team of direct-reports and cutting a handful of executives on both coasts. 

MTV representatives confirmed the moves late Wednesday night and described the effort as one that will "streamline" development and production. The network plans to make an official announcement Thursday.

Reporting to New York-based DiSanto, Executive VP of Series Development, will be Liz Gateley, his current number two and Senior VP of Series Development; Chris Linn, Senior VP of Series Production; and a yet-to-be-determined third executive in a new position – Senior VP of Content, Programming and Strategy.

Let go in the realignment is Rod Aissa, Executive VP of Talent Development and several managers and directors on both the East and West coasts.

The shuffle comes a month after MTVN Music Group Entertainment/Logo President Brian Graden said the network's Entertainment/Programming president Lois Curren would be significantly "scaling back" her duties. Twenty-year MTV veteran DiSanto was upped to assume her leadership duties. While MTV has struggled to find new hits, especially with Curren's shows, the move surprised staffers as Curren herself had been promoted months earlier to expand her development oversight to both coasts.

DiSanto's promotion, while seemingly hasty, was seen internally as smart move by Graden at a time when the network has suffered ratings drops and busted morale. While Curren has been at MTV since 1998, DiSanto has been there since 1987 and is well-liked by staffers who see him as a stalwart symbol of continuity from the network's creative heyday. For the month of May, MTV's audience was down 13% from a year earlier, to 774,000 viewers in prime, according Nielsen Media Research.

"I am confident that together this new group will lead their respective teams with passion and raise our series development programming and production to new heights, and bring us the next generation of hit series," said DiSanto in a statement.

Gateley, who has been at MTV since 2003 and whose shows include Laguna Beach and The Hills, will remain based in New York and will continue to oversee reality and scripted series development on both coasts. Reporting to her will be Mike Powers, who will oversee East Coast development and Drew Tappon, who will oversee current programming. Gateley will also add a subordinate to oversee West Coast development.

Linn, who has been at MTV since 2005, will also be New York-based, overseeing all aspects of production for series and specials on both coasts, including budgets, management, and talent and production deals. Leading West Coast production and reporting to him will be Momita Sengupta and leading East Coast production will be Andrew Portnoy.

The third DiSanto report is yet to be named, but will be fill the new role of Senior VP of Content, Programming and Strategy, overseeing linear TV scheduling and multiplatform content distribution. It is unclear where that executive will be based. Reporting to that person will be Robyn DeMarco. The only executive to be promoted in the changes, she is upped from VP to Senior VP of Scheduling.

MTV representatives said the cuts involved were unrelated to the wide-ranging layoffs at Viacom's MTVN earlier this year.  In February, MTVN began cutting 250 U.S. staffers across its stable of cable brands in an effort to reduce costs and free up resources for new digital ventures, the company said. Those were followed in March by 250 layoffs in MTVN's international division.

Spirits have been down in creative circles at MTV since Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone fired well-liked and free-spirited CEO Tom Freston in September and replaced him with handpicked lieutenants Philippe Dauman as CEO and his longtime sidekick Tom Dooley as CFO.

With a sluggish advertising market and ever more digital outlets competing for its young viewers' attention, analysts have been skeptical about whether MTV can reclaim its place as the dominant cultural icon for young consumers.