The Right Way to 'Sneak Away’

After 17 years at MTV Networks — the last three as president of MTV — Christina Norman is leaving the company to pursue other new-media interests. Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead recently talked to Norman about her tenure, her accomplishments at MTV and what the future holds.

MCN: What made you decide to leave MTV right now?

Christina Norman: When you look out into the landscape of this industry, everyone talks about the incredible, monumental change the industry has experienced over the past three to five years. It’s exciting for me to think about the future, what’s next and what’s possible in ways that weren’t possible before.

It seemed like the timing was right for me and MTV was in a great place in its trajectory … ratings are up, the business is in a good place, a lot of our new things are doing well. So it seemed like this was a good opportunity to sneak away.

MCN: When you say good opportunity, what are you specifically talking about?

CN: I’m really excited, as everyone is now, about what’s happening online. When you think about the possibilities to reach and entertain people in ways that didn’t exist before, that’s interesting to me. There are also so many things yet to be said about mobile and all of these new distribution platforms: Which of them will connect with audiences and what are the ways people will want to get information and entertainment going forward? It’s exciting to think about having a role in some of that.

MCN: What do you feel were your greatest accomplishments at MTV over the past three years?

CN: One of the things I’m most proud of is getting MTV Tr3s launched. It was the last holdout, in terms of us reaching out and connecting to an audience that was underserved but didn’t have an MTV of their own. I think it’s in a great place to talk to the audience and listen to the incredible passion that they have for what we’ve created and what they’ve helped us create.

On the pro-social side, Think MTV is something I’m really proud of. It’s the first online community that’s dedicated to activism.

MCN: Did you accomplish all that you wanted to do at MTV?

CN: I don’t think you ever accomplish all you want to accomplish. There are definitely things that are undone, but the beauty of MTV is the constantly evolving company that’s propelled by an incredible force of people that have a passion for MTV.

MCN: How important do you believe your accomplishments were to other people of color who see you as a role model?

CN: Everybody watches what we do, so you have to recognize that, not only as an African-American manager but any manager, that people are watching you, learning from you, want to be inspired by you and want to emulate you. So you have to give them something good, and from the reaction that I’ve gotten from people I feel like I have, and that definitely spurs me to keep that going.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.