Layoffs Hit Viacom as TV Land, Paramount Network Merge Key Operations

Spike exec vp programming Tom Zappala will exit as TV Land's Karen Cummins, Scott Gregory and Deva Newman add Paramount Network to their titles.
Courtesy of Viacom
From left: Karen Cummins, Deva Newman, Tom Zappala

With Paramount Network's launch a few months away, Viacom continues to merge its central operations under Kevin Kay and Keith Cox. As part of the effort, about 20 employees from Spike (which is being rebranded as Paramount Network in January), TV Land and CMT are being trimmed from Viacom's workforce.

Shortly after CMT programming chief Jayson Dinsmore announced his exit Tuesday from the network — with Cox, already tasked with overseeing development at TV Land and Paramount, adding the country music channel to his purview — Viacom is further aligning key operations between Paramount Network and TV Land.

Spike executive vp programming Tom Zappala — who has been with the soon-to-be-rebranded network since 2011 — is stepping down. (Read Kay's memo to staff about Zappala, below.) Zappala is the top-ranking staffer among the 20 employees who are being cut across Spike, CMT and Paramount Network as part of the move to centralize operations.

"As part of these strategic changes at the brands and group levels, some roles across Paramount Network (Spike), CMT and TV Land have been impacted," Kay wrote Tuesday in another memo to staff. (Read that below as well.) "Please know that we weighed this matter very seriously; however, after careful consideration we determined it was an essential step to evolve and grow our brands. The staff members who have been impacted were notified earlier today."

As part of the consolidation, Kay — who heads the Global Entertainment Group as president of Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT — has tapped three TV Land execs to expand their purview to include Paramount Network.

Karen Cummins will serve in the dual role as senior vp marketing partnerships for Paramount Network and TV Land and is charged with developing brand synergies as well as continue to oversee off-network marketing for TV Land originals. She will report to Viacom veteran Neils Shuurmans, who was recently appointed chief marketing officer for all three brands. Cummins will have a dotted line to Frank Tanki, GM of both CMT and TV Land.

Scott Gregory has been appointed to the newly created role of senior vp programming, media planning and acquisitions for Paramount Network and TV Land. He will lead the unified programming and media planning team and be responsible for managing content and scheduling across all platforms for both brands. Gregory will report directly to Kay. 

Deva Newman will serve as senior vp creative at Paramount Network with a focus on scripted. She will report to Terry Minogue, senior vp brand marketing and creative at Paramount Network.

To hear Kay tell it, the promotions come as part of a larger goal to help break down silos in an effort to share resources and information. "Our goal is to make Paramount Network a premium destination that pushes the limits of storytelling with bold original scripted and non-scripted series," Kay wrote. "As some of the architects behind the successful TV Land rebrand and the launch of critically acclaimed and fan-favorite hits like Younger and Teachers, this new structure enables us to take the deep insights and expertise of TV Land’s team and apply them to Paramount Network as we gear up to launch next year, while also continuing our creative and ratings resurgence at TV Land."

The decision to unify development and marketing teams comes as fellow Viacom cable networks MTV, VH1 and Logo did the same earlier this year after Chris McCarthy expanded his oversight to include all three brands. Viacom, under new CEO Bob Bakish, has outlined plans to focus on six core brands — MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Paramount Network — as part of a larger effort to reinvigorate the media conglomerate. CMT earlier on Tuesday saw longtime head of programming Dinsmore exit — months after CMT president Brian Philips was pushed out — as the niche network is folded closer under president of development Cox. Cox, who started at TV Land, now oversees development for Paramount Network as well as CMT.  

Here's Kay's note to staff about Zappala:

Team-

I have an organizational update. Tom Zappala is stepping down from his role as EVP of Programming for Spike.

During his six-year tenure, Tom has become a beloved member of my senior team and a trusted advisor. He’s a seasoned executive and Zen master of scheduling. And I'm particularly going to miss his magnifying glass devotion to the schedule and all the small print he is famous for!

He’s an amazing manager and tremendous partner for all of us, held in the highest regard by his team and everyone at Spike. His keen eye towards smart acquisitions and media planning made him a true asset.

He’s been a driving force behind the success of Spike and a key architect as we gear up to launch Paramount Network early next year. I thank him for all of his many contributions over the years.

I will update you soon on new programming leadership, but for now please join me in thanking Tom and wishing him well on his next adventure. 

Kevin

And here's Kay's larger memo about restructuring:

Team–

I have some important organizational news to share with you. We’re making a few changes at Paramount Network (Spike), CMT and TV Land to better align and strengthen our brands with the goal of breaking down silos and helping our teams share insights, resources and expertise.    

With the launch of Paramount Network a few short months away, we’re enlisting many of our top TV Land performers in marketing, creative and programming across TV Land to work with the team on Paramount Network. Our goal is to make Paramount Network a premium destination that pushes the limits of storytelling with bold original scripted and non-scripted series. As some of the architects behind the successful TV Land rebrand and the launch of critically acclaimed and fan-favorite hits like “Younger” and “Teachers,” this new structure enables us to take the deep insights and expertise of TV Land’s team and apply them to Paramount Network as we gear up to launch next year, while also continuing our creative and ratings resurgence at TV Land.

Karen Cummins will serve as SVP, Marketing Partnerships for Paramount Network and TV Land. She will also continue to oversee off-channel marketing for original series at TV Land. She will report to Niels Schuurmans, Chief Marketing Officer for Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT with a dotted line to Frank Tanki, General Manager of CMT and TV Land. 
 
Scott Gregory has been appointed to the newly created role of SVP, Programming, Media Planning & Acquisitions, Paramount Network & TV Land, and will lead the unified programming and media planning team. He will be responsible for managing content and scheduling across all platforms for both brands. He will report into Kay with a dotted  line to Tanki.
 
Deva Newman will serve as SVP, Creative for Paramount Network with a focus on scripted reporting into Terry Minoque, and SVP, Creative Director for TV Land, with a dotted line to Tanki. 
 
These appointments come on the heels of record growth. TV Land is on track to have its best fiscal year since 2014. Total day ratings are up 9% year-over-year; notching 10 months of consecutive ratings growth. Quarter-to-date, TV Land is experiencing the highest year-on-year growth of any top 20 non-news cable network. “Younger” continues to shatter ratings records and this season is pacing to be its most watched and highest rated yet. Under Frank’s leadership, we’ll continue that momentum with a mix of new and returning premium scripted series. 
 
CMT is also having a banner year with ratings up across all dayparts driving more than 9 months of year-over-year growth and its best fiscal year since 2014. “Nashville” has become a signature hit and now ranks as the most watched and highest rated series in CMT history and the seminal fan-favorite unscripted series “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team” is now notching its best ratings in 6 years. Under Frank’s leadership, we will launch series tailored to the new and geographically diverse audience we’ve attracted this past year, while expanding our footprint in digital/social to own the country lifestyle space and exploring partnerships to extend this palpable and distinct brand beyond the linear screen. 
 
As part of these strategic changes at the brands and group levels, some roles across Paramount Network (Spike), CMT and TV Land have been impacted. Please know that we weighed this matter very seriously; however, after careful consideration we determined it was an essential step to evolve and grow our brands. The staff members who have been impacted were notified earlier today.
 
We are incredibly grateful to all of our employees who have contributed to our brands, many of whom we have worked alongside for many years. We are committed to ensuring they are treated with the highest level of fairness, gratitude and respect throughout this process.
 
We have an ambitious year ahead as we launch Paramount Network and continue to build upon the success of both TV Land and CMT. Together, we will build the best collection of brands to serve our audiences. 
 
Thank you all for your unwavering commitment and continued hard work and support over these past several months.
 
Kevin
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