Viacom Content Chief Denise Denson to Leave

Viacom said long-time head of content distribution Denise Denson is leaving the company, replaced by former EVP of sales and business development for content distribution Tom Gorke.

Denson has been with Viacom since 1994 and was named EVP of Content Distribution in 2015. In his new role, Gorke will oversee Viacom’s Media Networks distribution strategy and partnerships with all domestic affiliates.

“Viacom is deeply committed to strengthening relationships with our distributors, and finding exciting new paths to bring our industry-leading content to their viewers,” Viacom acting president and CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement. “Tom has a track record of creative, successful dealmaking, including several major first-of-their-kind digital distribution agreements that helped launch groundbreaking streaming platforms for new entrants as well as existing MVPDs. He is a thoughtful executive who will be fully empowered to design new and innovative strategies to work with our important distribution partners.”

In a memo to employees, Bakish praised Denson for her tenure at Viacom, crediting her with building the programmer’s distribution business.

“Denise led the team and our brands through the most transformative period in the history of the content distribution business,” Bakish said in the memo. “She helped evolve what was once called Affiliate Sales into a truly multiplatform group able to address a landscape with exponentially increasing levels of complexity.  We’re so grateful for her years of contributions to Viacom, and for the best-in-class team she built at our company.”

But Bakish also noted that the business has changed dramatically.

“As you’ve probably noticed, our relationships with our distribution partners have at times become contentious in the past,” Bakish said in the memo. “Some of that tension is natural given how quickly the business is changing, but I think there’s a lot to we can do to strengthen those relationships.  I know Tom agrees and I know our fantastic Content Distribution team continues to be committed to that task.  We must work together with our distributors in true partnership to capture mutually beneficial opportunities, address our shared challenges and, ultimately, give consumers what they want and deserve.”

Prior to being named EVP of sales and business development for content distribution – where he reported to Denson – Gorke  served as Senior Vice President of Content Distribution and Marketing for Viacom Media Networks, where he was responsible for all of Viacom Media Networks' digital content distribution deals including subscription video aggregators, electronic sell-through providers and other mobile and internet-based content distributors. He has been with Viacom since 2005, moving from CBS Internet Group where he was manager of strategy and investments. He began his career at investment banker Alex. Brown as a financial analyst in the Consumer Group.

“Viacom’s cable networks are the most-watched in the U.S., and have more subscribers around the world than any other family,” Gorke said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to expanding my work for these brands and appreciate Bob’s confidence in me and my team. It’s an exciting time - the industry environment is constantly changing and I believe there continues to be great opportunity for our brands and programming. We’re looking forward to working closely with our distribution partners around the world to think flexibly and identify new ways to expand our businesses together.”