ViacomCBS Names George Cheeks to Replace Joe Ianniello as Head of CBS

Paul Drinkwater/NBC
George Cheeks

Cheeks, who most recently worked at NBCUniversal but previously was at Viacom, starts in late March.

ViacomCBS has made it official Friday: Joe Ianniello, chairman and CEO of CBS, will be leaving the company. George Cheeks has been appointed president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group, effective March 23.

He succeeds Ianniello who "will work with the company to ensure a smooth transition."

Cheeks joins ViacomCBS from NBCUniversal, where he most recently served as vice chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios.

Before joining NBC in 2012, Cheeks served as executive vp business affairs and general counsel for Viacom Music and Entertainment Group and also as head of standards and practices for Viacom Media. Before that, he served in legal roles at Nickelodeon, MTV, CMT and Logo. Earlier in his career, he held positions at Castle Rock Entertainment and law firms Loeb & Loeb and Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren & Richman.

In his new role, Cheeks will lead CBS-branded assets, including CBS Television Network, encompassing CBS Entertainment, CBS News and CBS Sports, CBS Television Studios and CBS Television Stations and CBS’ first-run syndication business. 

He will also team with the ViacomCBS digital team on the CBS-branded digital assets, including CBS All Access. Cheeks will report to Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS.

“I am thrilled to welcome George back to the family at this exciting moment for ViacomCBS,” said Bakish. “Throughout his career, George has built broad experience in broadcast and studio operations and brings a unique mix of skills — combining deep commercial expertise and industry relationships with strong creative and programming capabilities. With his finger on the pulse of culture and change and his strong grasp of strategy, brands, audiences and content monetization, George will help CBS build on its position as the most-watched broadcast network and drive results across the entire CBS portfolio."

Bakish added: "I’m grateful to Joe for his many contributions to CBS and for the meaningful role he has played in bringing the CBS and Viacom teams together. Thanks in no small part to his efforts, the CBS brand has a strong and loyal following across a variety of platforms — positioning it well for this important next chapter.”

“I am very pleased to be able to leave CBS well positioned for long-term success,” said Ianniello. “Throughout my 22-year tenure I have always said that the quality and integrity of the people of CBS are what make it great.... Working with Bob, I now look forward to ensuring a smooth transition to the next phase of leadership of CBS, so that the Eye can continue to thrive, just as it has for so long.”

Cheeks said: “I am incredibly honored to join the stellar CBS team and help lead these incredible brands forward. From news to sports to entertainment, CBS sets the standard, and I look forward to building on this tremendous foundation as we find new and innovative ways to deliver CBS to audiences worldwide.”

In an internal staff memo, Bakish thanked Ianniello for his work. "During his time leading CBS, Joe successfully grew the company into a global multiplatform premium content company," he wrote.

"I’m confident that George is ideally suited to lead CBS through its next chapter," Bakish said about the new hire. "Many of you may be familiar with George through the many senior roles he has held at NBCUniversal — and before that at Viacom, where he spent 15 years holding a number of leadership positions."

Concluded Bakish: "Very importantly, thanks to all of your hard work, George will be off to a running start, picking up on Joe’s efforts and working with CBS leadership to ensure a smooth transition. With five of the top six new series this season and the most-watched late night talk show on television, George’s return at this exciting moment is a testament to your hard work and the momentum underway at CBS — and to the many opportunities ahead for ViacomCBS as a whole."