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ViacomCBS is officially restructuring its executive ranks in a bid to better prioritize streaming.
The conglomerate, overseen by CEO Bob Bakish, has promoted David Nevins, Nicole Clemens, Chris McCarthy, Brian Robbins and Tanya Giles, with each exec taking on new responsibilities at streamer Paramount+. Giles will become chief programming officer of streaming, a newly created role in which she will oversee strategy at Paramount+ and Pluto TV with a focus on audience acquisition and engagement.
It’s unclear if there will be any layoffs as part of the reorganization, as was the case when Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal rejiggered their corporate ranks last year. The moves restructure the company with a focus on content groups rather than siloed network oversight, with each exec focusing on supplying programming to streamer Paramount+.
The moves mean the top execs within ViacomCBS each have greenlight power for Paramount+ in their respective areas of focus. CBS Corp. CEO George Cheeks will add chief content officer of news and sports at Paramount+. Paramount Pictures CEO Jim Gianopulos will now also add content chief of movies at the streamer. Bruce Gillmer, president of music, programming and events, will also have a content chief title for the same role at Paramount+. McCarthy adds the content title for unscripted and adult animation. Nevins, who was chief creative officer at CBS and CEO at premium cabler Showtime, will relinquish his role with the broadcast network and now serve as chief content officer of scripted originals for Paramount+. With Nevins no longer hands-on at broadcaster CBS, network president Kelly Kahl and CBS Studios topper David Stapf will now report directly to Cheeks.
Paramount Television Studios president Clemens will continue to serve in the same capacity while also working alongside Nevins as president of original scripted content at Paramount+. Clemens, a former agent, manager and FX executive, had been rumored to be adding Paramount+ originals to her purview after Julie McNamara departed the streamer formerly known as CBS All Access (it was rebranded earlier this year in a bid to reflect content from across ViacomCBS’ entire portfolio). Clemens will report to Nevins for Paramount+ and continue reporting to Gianopulos for PTVS. Robbins, president of kids and family, will add content chief for the same area for the streamer.
As part of the realignment, Kelly Day — who has been president of streaming and COO at ViacomCBS Networks International, will work with Giles and the content leaders on the global content slate for the streamer. Day will continue to report to Ryan and VCNI CEO Raffaele Annecchino. Scott Mills — who helped recruit Kenya Barris to form BET Studios — will continue to oversee BET+, reporting to Nevins.
“The strong launch and early months of Paramount+ have demonstrated the power and potential of our platform, as well as audiences’ appetite for a broad and diverse array of content, all in one place,” Bakish said in a release Wednesday. “The moves we are making today will accelerate that mission by putting ViacomCBS’ most powerful assets — world-class content, iconic brands, global infrastructure and expertise, and the best talent in the business today — behind our platforms as we pursue the global opportunity in streaming. Together, our leaders will ensure that we’re delivering to audiences the very best our streaming platforms have to offer, with must-watch content across every genre and market we operate in.”
McCarthy will continue to oversee unscripted — which he successfully rebuilt as president of MTV and VH1 — as well as adult animation — he’s already greenlit revivals of MTV’s ’90s favorites — across the company’s vast portfolio. McCarthy has served as president of ViacomCBS’ linear cable networks, including Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, CMT, Logo, TV Land and Paramount Network. McCarthy and his top scripted lieutenant, Keith Cox, sources say, will also continue to oversee all of Taylor Sheridan’s originals for the company. Cox and former Spike TV/Paramount Network president Kevin Kay were central in recruiting the Yellowstone creator to ViacomCBS. Sheridan recently renewed his overall deal with ViacomCBS and has multiple series in the works, including a Yellowstone prequel and Jeremy Renner drama, both for Paramount+.
Robbins — who was president of ViacomCBS Kids & Family — will continue to oversee Nickelodeon and all kids programming across the company’s portfolio. The news comes as kids-focused content like SpongeBob and the iCarly update has been a top traffic driver at Paramount+.
Rounding out the moves is Giles, who had served as GM of Paramount Network, TV Land, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1 and Logo under McCarthy. She will now oversee content strategy across ViacomCBS’ entertainment portfolio. Giles’ role is expected to focus on the big picture, including data and analytics, among other responsibilities.
“Tanya is a stellar media executive who brings a deep familiarity with our brands and audiences, as well as an unmatched talent for harnessing data to make high-impact programming decisions,” Ryan said. “Our content leaders know their genres better than anyone and have been integral to building a strong slate for Paramount+ and growing its audience. Our new structure will enable us to tap into their collective expertise even more effectively, further cementing Paramount+ as a true super service that delivers the content audiences love, all in one place.”
The changes come after Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal each restructured their executive ranks last year in an effort to prioritize their in-house streaming services. The ViacomCBS structure means the streamer will now be overseen by a content group rather than a dedicated executive as ViacomCBS looks to further grow the SVOD service to better represent its well-known brands. It also gives key scripted oversight of the streamer to a pair of seasoned creative execs with deep relationships with producers and talent in Nevins and Clemens.
Sources say Nevins had been frustrated after he was passed over for the CEO job at CBS Entertainment Group that ultimately went to Cheeks early last year. Sources note that Nevins spent much of the past year exploring other opportunities, including the NBCUniversal entertainment content job that ultimately went to Susan Rovner. Nevins has been with CBS since 2010, when former CEO Leslie Moonves tapped him to replace Bob Greenblatt atop Showtime. He was promoted to chief creative officer at CBS Corp. in 2018 in a bid to stabilize the company following Moonves’ ouster. Nevins continues to report directly to Bakish. Nevins was central in bringing Clarice to CBS and developed Showtime originals including Shameless, House of Lies and Homeland, among others. During his time as an executive at Imagine, he developed hits including Friday Night Lights, 24 and Arrested Development. With the addition of Paramount+, Nevins will share (with Clemens) in the creative oversight of the streamer and take on a greater programming role.
What remains to be seen is if ViacomCBS will combine its multiple streamers — Showtime’s OTT offering, BET+ (a joint venture with Tyler Perry) and Paramount+ as well as free streamer Pluto TV — into one single offering. Despite pressure from Wall Street, Bakish has declined to merge the services at ViacomCBS.
This will not be the first time that Clemens has overseen programming and a studio at the same time. Clemens was a top programmer at FX while also overseeing the cable network’s in-house studio, FX Productions. Clemens was named president of Paramount TV Studios in late 2018 after roles as a manager at Anonymous Content, at FX and at ICM Partners, where she was head of motion picture lit. Since taking over the studio, which has been a top content supplier to Paramount+ while also serving as an arms dealer to third-party outlets, Clemens has overseen a roster of originals including 13 Reasons Why, Defending Jacob, Home Before Dark and Looking for Alaska. She has also mined Paramount’s deep vault of IP with updates of Love Story, Fatal Attraction, Flashdance and The Italian Job, among others, all in the works at Paramount+.
McCarthy has been a rising star at ViacomCBS since he first joined the company in 2004. After overseeing VH1’s ratings turnaround, he has continued to add oversight of multiple networks since and also launched in-house studios to focus on mining IP at MTV and Comedy Central. To that end, McCarthy has revived Beavis and Butt-Head, Daria (with a spinoff, Jodie) and Ren and Stimpy while cutting legacy programming like Tosh.0 and originals The Other Two and South Side. The two scripted originals moved to HBO Max as Comedy Central, the studio on both shows, will continue to monetize them.
Former AwesomenessTV founder Robbins was named president of Nickelodeon in late 2018, replacing 30-year veteran Cyma Zarghami. During his tenure, he has mined Nick’s vault of IP with a SpongeBob spinoff, The Patrick Star Show, a new Rugrats, the iCarly revival, and films set in the Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra worlds, among others. The kids-focused network will launch 20 new series and feature films this year on the linear network and Paramount+.
Giles, for her part, most recently oversaw content strategy, programming, research and insights for McCarthy’s cable networks, while working on global deals with sales, distribution and Pluto TV.
Nevins, McCarthy and Robbins will all report to Bakish; Giles will shift from reporting to McCarthy to Ryan, the former CEO of Pluto TV who in October was tapped as CEO of ViacomCBS Streaming. In that role, Ryan continues to oversee Pluto TV and Paramount+. Ryan replaced ViacomCBS Digital CEO Marc DeBevoise. Julie McNamara, who worked alongside DeBevoise, departed earlier this year after overseeing originals for the former CBS All Access. She greenlit series including Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Fight and the since-canceled Twilight Zone.
The reorg will see ViacomCBS shift from a legacy model where networks had dedicated executives in favor of a structure that puts executives in charge of specific genres across the company.
Following a year of massive layoffs and restructuring, big media companies like Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal largely abandoned the decades-old structure to prioritize their in-house streamers, Disney+, HBO Max and Peacock, respectively, as linear viewing continues to erode and as companies bulk up to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, among others. In a sign of how fast the TV landscape is changing, none of the four legacy media companies have similar exec structures.
The ViacomCBS reorg is the latest move at the company under Bakish’s purview. Before Viacom and CBS re-merged, Bakish ousted veteran execs at pretty much every cable network at Viacom, pushing out Kay, Zarghami, Comedy Central’s Kent Alterman and BET’s Debra Lee, among others, as he worked to slim down the company’s exec ranks and payroll ahead of the merger.
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