Layoffs Hit CMT as Marketing Among Groups Integrated Under Chris McCarthy's Team

Chris McCarthy, who added oversight of the niche Viacom-owned cable network in October, is combining groups including marketing, music, scheduling, communications and events.
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Chris McCarthy

CMT is the latest Viacom network to clean house.

MTV, VH1, Logo and CMT president Chris McCarthy is consolidating a number of groups at the niche cable network, with multiple people — including chief marketing officer Anthony Barton — being laid off.

CMT's marketing, music, scheduling, communication, music and events teams will be fully integrated into McCarthy's Music Group, which also includes MTV, VH1 and Logo. A number of employees are being let go. Sources say the majority of layoffs will be in the marketing group. Current MTV, VH1 and Logo CMO Jacqueline Parks (who also oversees the recently launched Viacom Digital Studios) will now add CMT to her purview. Some employees will be relocating to Viacom's New York headquarters, and others will remain in Nashville as McCarthy sees the greatest opportunity to grow the country music-focused network in the region where its hub has been for nearly two decades. The moves were announced Wednesday via an internal memo from McCarthy.

The consolidation comes as little surprise as Viacom continues to centralize its operations under CEO Bob Bakish's larger plan to rejuvenate the media behemoth. Bakish's original plan was to focus on five key brands: MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, BET and Nickelodeon. That was reduced in October when Paramount Network president Kevin Kay was pushed out and Comedy Central topper Kent Alterman added oversight of the former Spike TV to his purview. The four centralized brand groups now are: Comedy Central, Paramount Network and TV Land in one, overseen by Alterman; MTV, VH1, Logo and CMT (overseen by McCarthy, who added the latter in October); BET Networks the third; and Nickelodeon as the fourth.

CMT has been without a specific network president since June 2017, when Brian Philips was pushed out following a 16-year run with the network. TV Land GM Frank Tanki added oversight of the cable network after Philips departed. It's unclear what role Tanki still has with Viacom as he no longer is with CMT.

The move to centralize departments arrives as McCarthy did the same when the then-VH1 president added oversight of MTV to his purview. He has since centralized scripted, marketing and other departments among MTV, VH1 and Logo. Doing so with CMT was considered a foregone conclusion.

McCarthy's memo to staff is below.

Hi everyone,
We have made great progress over the last couple of years to fully harness the creative power of our collective group.
By integrating our departments across brands, removing silos and developing best-in-class creative teams, we are building a stronger group together.
Today, we are taking the next step — as we finalize the integration of CMT with a new, simplified structure. Moving forward, the CMT marketing, music, scheduling, communications and event production teams will be fully integrated within our group, under our existing unified leadership team. Several CMT leads will be taking on expanded roles working across all of our brands, particularly in partnership marketing and event production.
Unfortunately, however, this new structure does mean some hard changes. A number of our CMT marketing colleagues will be leaving including Anthony Barton, the head of CMT marketing, and Suzanne Norman, the head of our Nashville office.
Suzanne and Anthony are passionate champions for the CMT brand and we are very grateful for their many years of dedication. Without them, and many of our CMT colleagues, it would not be as strong as it is today. Please join me in thanking them and wishing everyone continued success.
The heart and soul of CMT is our music programming, tentpoles and deep connection to Nashville — which will be at the center of CMT’s growth plan forward. Through increased programming and events, we will further amplify Nashville and its thriving country music scene. More to come on this shortly.
Thank you for your continued support as we transform our group and the company for the future.