Salmi to head MTV's global digital media

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Viacom's MTV Networks is centralizing its digital operations under one leader, the company disclosed Wednesday.

Mika Salmi, founder and CEO of Atom Entertainment, which Viacom acquired in August, has been tapped for the newly created role of president of global digital media at MTVN.

The post gives Salmi, a dot-com veteran who got his start in the music industry, broad oversight of MTVN's stable of multiplatform brands worldwide.

"I think the media business is undergoing a huge change right now, and it's going to be an honor to play a part in it, as well as a huge challenge," Salmi said.

Salmi's appointment is perhaps the strongest indication yet that Viacom is intent on getting its house in order in the digital realm. Sumner Redstone, the conglomerate's chairman, has indicated he removed his CEO, Tom Freston, over the executive's lack of speed capitalizing on the space and losing out on the acquisition of MySpace to News Corp.

Salmi rejected the notion that Viacom needs to make any one bold move to transform the company's digital fortunes, a la MySpace.

"I think we're going a different way," he said. "The company is very decentralized, multiplatform and multibrand."

MTVN encompasses a wide variety of digital brands, including such acquisitions as NeoPets, Y2M and IFilm, as well as homegrown ventures including MTV Flux and ParentsConnect.

Salmi's ascendance marks the first move MTVN has made to consolidate leadership in the space since Jason Hirschhorn left as chief digital officer of the division in May. He was replaced on an interim basis by Nick Lehman, executive vp digital media.

Salmi will report to Judy McGrath, chairman and CEO of MTVN, and become part of her senior strategy team.

"Mika is a digital media veteran, and he is recognized for building innovative video and gaming assets online," McGrath said. "He understands what it takes to create that addictive, immersive online experience, and at the same time, build a valuable brand."

Atom, which includes shortform film and gaming properties including Shockwave.com and AddictingClips.com, was sold to Viacom for $200 million. "They acquired my company, and in the process they brought up that there was a position they liked me for," Salmi said. "It wasn't on my agenda to sell to them to get a job doing this."

The Finnish-born Salmi started in the music business for record labels including Sony Music and EMI Music, helping sign bands including Nine Inch Nails. He started AtomFilms and merged it with Shockwave.com in 2001 to form Atom Entertainment.

Salmi declined comment on reports that Viacom is close to a deal with YouTube for a cut of advertising revenue from Viacom-owned videos appearing on the site.
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