Bill Roedy steps down as CEO of MTV Int'l

MTVI president Bob Bakish will run operation for now

Bill Roedy, the longtime head of MTV's worldwide operations and one of the most visionary -- and peripatetic -- U.S. execs in the global biz, is stepping down as chairman and CEO of MTV Networks Intl. and as vice chairman of MTV Networks.

In a memo to staffers late Wednesday, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman broke the news, describing the 22-year cable vet as "crisscrossing the planet, planting our flag on nearly every continent and spreading the gospel of quality, audience-first programming from Beijing, to Bangalore, to Buenos Aires and everywhere in between."

Oddly for a Hollywood corporation and an executive of Roedy's stature, there was no press release to accompany the memo and no immediate statement from Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, who oft called MTV, and especially the nicher's global operations, the jewel in the crown of his media empire.

Roedy was instrumental in establishing worldwide one of the most popular and far-reaching bouquets of American-backed TV channels and in the offing built a global management team, which is now led by MTVN International president Bob Bakish.

As far as a replacement, Dauman told THR Thursday that Bakish will run the operation from the States, and obviously travel a lot. As for a precise title, Dauman said he was less concerned with that and more with having "someone good in place to run the business."

Roedy will exit at the end of the year.

"If Tom Freston was the mastermind behind turning a cheap vidclip service into a cultural icon and money machine in the 80's, it was his pal Bill Roedy who took that ball and ran with it around the world," said one Hollywood–based exec who knows them both.

From his base in London, Roedy realized early on that musical tastes were local as well as universal and as such he spearheaded the drive to develop talent and highlight the musical traditions of individual territories in which the service was launched.

"The mantra 'think global, act local' -- which all the U.S. majors now subscribe to -- was one Roedy picked up on early. It created a lot of goodwill around the world as well as encouraging local advertisers to come onboard the service in different territories," said another long-time international observer.

From buying Bono's one-time Dublin retreat to partying through the night with his friends Jay-Z and Beyonce, Roedy made a point of being close to the trends and the talent in the music industry.

In his trademark baseball cap and sneakers, he also cut a distinctly non-corporate figure at the helm of the global music corporation.

Since Dire Straits' hit "Money For Nothing" kicked off the launch of MTV Europe in 1989, on Roedy's watch MTV has spawned 64 channels in 150 territories, while sibling nichers (for which he is also responsible) Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and VH1 channels total almost 100 foreign feeds.

Perhaps most notably, Roedy and his inner circle were quick to see the link between music and political change.

This was strikingly clear when satellites began beaming into Eastern Europe -- at the time weighed down by the leaden politics of the Iron Curtain --- and a new era of music video television and a sense of fun became catalysts for political change.

"We were intertwined with all of this," said Roedy, speaking last year as the MTV Europe music awards celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"You can credit a whole lot of people with the fall of the wall: You can credit Gorbachev, you can credit the border guards for not shooting, you can credit a whole lot things. But one reason you can add to all the other reasons is television," he said.

When it came to change, MTV underwent its own transformation several years ago, and Roedy was one of the few senior execs to survive the wholesale clear-out at parent company Viacom, when long-time ally Freston quit in 2006 after a series of disagreements with Redstone.

As for challenges in the international cable sphere, revenues have been impacted by the global recession and an aging European population isn't a plus for a youth-focused operation like MTV Networks. Thus, the cabler has shifted energies toward the emerging world, but there the challenge is growing ad revenues and subscriptions from a much lower base.

Over the years, Roedy has also became increasingly drawn to humanitarian causes and the role MTV can play in increasing AIDS awareness and the effects of climate change.

A Miami native schooled at West Point and Harvard, Roedy was present when the Berlin Wall fell, met with Castro in Cuba, dined with China¹s supreme leaders, consulted with Nelson Mandela, planted the MTV flag in the Mideast, and advocated for millions of AIDS sufferers across the globe.

He did it all, Dauman said in his memo, with "a natural intelligence, charm and humanity that impressed and inspired colleagues, aswell as business partners and political leaders of every stripe and ideology."

Roedy will continue his involvement with global health issues and will maintain his chairmanship of the Staying Alive Foundation and his active role with the United Nations and the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, an organization he helped found more than a decade ago. He will also continue to lend his leadership and insight as a board member of numerous international organizations including Healthright, the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the American School in London.

Georg Szalai in New York contributed to this report.
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