Brian Graden leaving MTV Networks

Exec expected to stay at Viacom under producing deal

MTV mastermind Brian Graden will depart the cable network at year's end when his contract expires.

Graden, who took over programming at MTV 12 years ago, has served as president of entertainment at the MTV Networks Music Channels and president of Logo since 2004.

The over-reaching creative position will not be filled, with the individual heads of programming -- MTV's Tony DiSanto, VH1's Jeff Olde, CMT's Bob Kusbit and Logo's Dave Mace -- managing each channel's development efforts, according to MTV Networks Music and Logo Group president Van Toffler, to whom Graden has reported.

Graden, who is in talks to stay in the Viacom fold with a producing deal, is credited with guiding MTV from the era of music videos to the world of reality programming, supervising the creation and launch of such series as "TRL," "The Osbournes," "The Hills," "Jackass" and "Laguna Beach." He also was instrumental in getting the LGBT-oriented digital channel Logo off the ground and, before joining MTV, spotting "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker and helping them set up their show at Comedy Central.

Graden's decision to leave "happened quite organically," Toffler said in a phone interview from Nashville, where he was attending rehearsals for tonight's CMT Music Awards.

"Brian is a fearlessly independent creative thinker who wants to pursue his dreams," Toffler said. "He is a Renaissance man and wants to write musicals (and) books. We were quite lucky to have him for a dozen years."

Graden's departure is "an individual decision by a very talented executive" and not part of an executive restructuring, Toffler added.

Ratings for flagship network MTV have been trending down, but Toffler attributed that to the channel's continuous generational shift to appeal to the new crop of teens and twentysomethings.

MTV's new target is "the millennials," referring to the 12-24 demographic. Graden has been helping with MTV's new slate catering to them that includes series like "It's On With Alexa Chung," which premiered Monday.

Graden joined MTV in July 1997 as executive vp programming. He was promoted to president in 2002 and added oversight of VH1's slate in 2002.