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Doug Herzog is Viacom’s latest casualty.
The news of his departure comes roughly a week after Bob Bakish was formally named CEO of the challenged media company. In the latter role, insiders say Bakish is poised to restructure a group that’s already seen significant executive turnover and ailing ratings of late. During a recent earnings call, Bakish cited MTV and Comedy Central, both part of Herzog’s purview, as key priorities as he looks to turn Viacom around.
Herzog’s departure follows the ouster of longtime CEO Philippe Dauman after a bitter, public battle with Sumner Redstone and his daughter, Shari, this year. In the months since, the media has watched closely as plans to merge the company with CBS were considered. In the end, controlling shareholder National Amusements put a stop to the talks in mid-December.
Herzog, for his part, has been with Viacom for the better part of four decades, leaving temporarily for roles at USA and Fox. He was upped to his current position in early 2015, adding MTV, VH1 and Logo to a cable purview that already included Spike and Comedy Central. His last day will be Jan. 12, ending what he describes as a “helluva run.”
During his lengthy tenure with Viacom, the well-liked exec has been integral to the launch of hit franchises including The Daily Show, The Real World and South Park; he’s also been in a top post as the company’s flagship networks have seen their viewership slide and top talent — led by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee — bolt. A series of shake-ups have followed, with MTV now on its third president in as many years; Comedy Central losing its president, Michele Ganeless; and Nickelodeon chief Russell Hicks exiting after an 18-year run at the kids unit.
Herzog is not expected to be replaced as president of Viacom’s Music and Entertainment Group; instead, his reports will now report directly to Bakish. The news was first reported by Reuters.
Below is the memo Herzog sent Wednesday to his staff, with Bakish’s internal note following.
I have some news to share today. I will be stepping down from my post here at Viacom effective January 12th.
Thus ends a 25 year professional journey, and wild ride spanning seven networks, four decades, three Daily Show hosts, over two separate tours of duty, and one joint venture.
It all started innocently enough in 1984 when I was just 25. I arrived at the midtown MTV offices very early one September morning only to find the lobby completely dark. Not one light on and not a soul there. Thankfully Judy McGrath arrived soon after the lights went on and showed me to my office.
I was given a front row seat at the center of pop culture and an opportunity to redefine it a few times along the way. In no time, it seems I was surrounded by a seemingly endless universe of creative geniuses, rock stars, politicians, supermodels, heavyweight champs, comedians, street hustlers, and media moguls. And that was just one night at the VMAs!
We found Jon Stewart in an MTV conference room during a game show run-through, lost Dave Chappelle in South Africa and later found Trevor Noah there, we discovered Matt Stone and Trey Parker on VHS and Pauley Shore in Daytona Beach. (So yeah, that one’s on me too.) At MTV News we impacted a presidential race (legally), I got to pump the hand of a POTUS or two, and laughed out loud when Comedy Central unwittingly roasted a future one. I could do this all day.
Along the way, we launched countless hit shows, staged ground breaking tent pole events, threw some epic parties all the while establishing a unique creative culture fueling our awesome brands. Most importantly we connected deeply with our audiences in a way no one else ever had.
It was a helluva run, and I would wish it on anyone. I loved every minute of it.
As a new year dawns enormous change and disruption dominate the media landscape and the world at large. I know it can be unsettling. But trust me, you should be excited and invigorated by it. Reinventing the brands and innovating with content are the great core strengths of this company. Bob is already bringing true leadership and vision to Viacom. He is a big believer in the power of these brands across all platforms. I promise you are in very good hands with him, as well as your tremendous brand leaders.
The best ideas and best people win every time, and you have both right here.
And if content is indeed king, and brands its queen, then you represent a powerful kingdom poised to return Viacom where, once more, it will be the envy of its peers.
When I speak to anyone interested in this business, I always tell them: “You gotta work hard, you gotta be smart, you gotta be talented, and you gotta be a little lucky.”
I consider myself a very lucky man. Lucky to have worked so long at a place filled with amazing and talented people. I leave here enormously proud of everything we accomplished together.
I want to thank all my many great colleagues from over the years, including Tom Freston, Judy and everyone from the original MTV days. And of course the current M&E team: John, Kassie, Tanya, Jason, Kent, Chris, Kevin, Patrick, Whitney, Dave, Dan and Alex. These are some of the finest individuals I have ever had the opportunity to work with. I am so grateful for their friendship, council and support. It means the world to me.
And finally, to all of you at the M&E Group. I want to thank you for everything over the years. I cannot tell you how appreciative I have been for all your hard work, creativity, and support. Your passion for the brands and content inspired and motivated me every day.
I’m not gonna lie, there are so many things I will miss. Like the excitement of seeing a great pilot for the first time, or the thrill of a killer new spot. But mostly I will miss all of you, walking these halls and feeding off the unmistakable energy that defines this culture. It was my great privilege and honor to lead, collaborate, and create with you for so long. I will never forget it.
Many of you know I am just a camp counselor at heart. I tried to bring a little of that to the workplace every day. Lead the group, play to win, and have fun doing it.
For now, I’m looking forward to seeing what the next chapter brings. I’m excited and little uncertain, and that feels about right.
This company has been home to me for a long time. So I will be rooting for all of you, my “homies,” from wherever I may be, and wishing you all the best.
So take care of your brands, take care of your franchises, but most importantly, take care of one another. I look forward to seeing you all somewhere down the road. And remember … keep a light on.
Here is Bakish’s memo:
I wanted to share the news that Doug Herzog, President of the Music and Entertainment Group, is leaving Viacom next month. Below is the note that he sent out today to his teams in the Music and Entertainment Group. The brands in that Group will report directly to me moving forward.
In all the time I’ve known Doug, he’s never been an easy act to follow. South Park. The Daily Show. The Video Music Awards and MTV News. Chappelle’s Show and The Colbert Report. Name some of the most indelible hits in our history, and they’ve probably got Doug’s name in the credits and his creative fingerprints all over them. In his initial tenure at MTV, he came over from CNN as a fledging producer and rose to become the President of MTV Productions, and an architect of the brand’s leap from music videos to original programming. He oversaw the launch of “The Real World” and “Road Rules,” as well as the VMAs, “Movie Awards” and “Unplugged.”
That run alone would’ve put Doug in the Hall of Fame, but he followed it up by taking the job as President of Comedy Central in 1995, building that brand from a cult phenomenon to its current iteration as a multiplatform powerhouse, beginning with “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and continuing through to today with hits like “Broad City” and “Inside Amy Schumer.” Following stints at USA and Fox, we lured him back into the fold in 2004 to head up the Entertainment Group and, under his leadership, Comedy Central, Spike and TV Land all have enjoyed creative renaissances, from “Lip Sync Battle” to “Hot in Cleveland” to “Bar Rescue” and “Key & Peele.”
Doug gives a lot of credit below to luck, but let’s be honest — no one is that lucky. Doug made his own luck by being extremely good. He’s got sharp creative insight, a great eye for talent, and he inspires loyalty and adoration in his people. He’s also the funniest guy in pretty much any room and, above all, he’s an incredible human being.
I know this doesn’t need to be said, but I hope you’ll join me in thanking Doug for all of his incredible contributions to our company.
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