Four months after Frank Tanki was named General Manager of TV Land, he also is being appointed GM of sibling CMT. The news follows the departure earlier today of longtime CMT president Brian Philips, who stepped down after 16 years at the helm of the Viacom network.
Tanki will oversee day-to-day operations at CMT including Programming, Marketing & Creative and Communications, and will work with CMT’s development team. Working from both the New York and Nashville offices, he will continue to report to Kevin Kay, President of Spike (soon to be Paramount Network), TV Land and CMT.
The dual role for Tanki as GM of TV Land and CMT is indicative of the process of closer integration among Viacom networks in the realignment launched by new company CEO Bob Bakish earlier this year. In February, TV Land and CMT were moved from the Kids & Family Group to the Global Entertainment Group under Kay’s oversight.
Tanki’s appointment as GM of TV Land and CMT follows the promotion of TV Land President of Development and Production Keith Cox to President of Development and Production for Paramount Network and TV Land. Further expanding the integration of the three networks, CMT’s top programming executive, EVP Development and Production Jayson Dinsmore, now will report to Cox.
While both TV Land and CMT had been headed by president-level executives, now the two reinforcing Viacom brands, grouped with flagship Paramount Network, have Tanki as GM focused on the channels’ day-to-day operations, while programming, development and production for the three nets has been centralized under Cox. The goal of the restructuring is to leverage the reach of the brands, which target different audiences.
The rest of CMT’s executive team including Suzanne Norman (SVP Programming & Operations), Anthony Barton (SVP Consumer Marketing and Creative), Kurt Patat (SVP Corporate Communications) and Margaret Comeaux (VP Production – Music & Events) will now report to Tanki, while Leslie Fram (SVP Music Strategy & Talent) will dual report into Tanki and Bruce Gillmer, Head of Music and Music Talent for the Global Entertainment Group.
In an internal memo obtained by Deadline (read it in full below), Kay stressed that while “the leadership structure announced today will more closely align CMT with the Paramount Network and TV Land,” it will do so while “ensuring [CMT] maintains its country roots.”
The leadership change of CMT comes as the network logged its highest-rated fiscal third quarter since 2014 — up 14% among adults 18-49 from last year — following 29 consecutive weeks of year-over-year demo growth.
“CMT is one of the most distinct brands in all of media, and Frank is the perfect leader to guide the team to new summits of success,” said Kay. “I am confident that Frank will apply the same ingenuity that has been the hallmark of his career at Viacom to ensure that CMT continues to thrive, while keeping the network true to its brand.”
Tanki is a 12-year Viacom veteran who has worked on a number of successful properties, including Spike’s Lip Sync Battle and Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Prior to being named GM of TV Land, he served as EVP Brand Marketing and Creative at Spike TV and held several roles at Nickelodeon including most recently SVP Nickelodeon Strategic Property Planning & Marketing.
“As a fan of CMT and country music, I’m thrilled to join the team and remain committed to ensuring this iconic brand continues its upward trajectory as the leading destination for country music and culture,” said Tanki. “My focus is to successfully navigate CMT through the changing media landscape and extend the power of the brand’s voice.”
Here is Kay’s memo announcing Philips’ departure from CMT, Tanki’s appointment and the realignment of the network’s executive team:
I’m writing to let you know that Brian Philips has decided to step down as President of CMT after dedicating an incredible 16 years to shaping the network.
It’s difficult to overstate the critical role Brian has played at CMT. A fiercely passionate music fan with a career spanning both radio and television, Brian has shepherded CMT through some of its most important – and transformational – moments. Under his leadership, the network doubled its subscriber base and launched some its most successful series, including “CMT Crossroads,” “CMT Music Awards,” and “Nashville.” Brian is leaving the brand in excellent shape- we’ve attracted and retained new audiences and advertisers and delivered 29 consecutive weeks of ratings growth.
His departure leaves behind some big shoes, so we’re making a few changes to the leadership structure to ensure CMT continues to thrive. Moving forward, Frank Tanki will serve as General Manager of CMT in addition to his current role as General Manager of TV Land.
He will oversee day-to-day operations including Programming, Marketing & Creative, and Communications, and will work closely with CMT’s development team. In addition, Frank will create new opportunities to leverage the combined reach and influence of both CMT and TV Land, who each attract a significant and distinct adult audience.
A creative, forward-thinking leader and a 12-year veteran of Viacom, Frank has contributed to some of the company’s most successful properties, ranging from Spike’s “Lip Sync Battle” to Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” I have every confidence that he will bring this ingenuity to CMT while keeping true to our brand.
Frank will be supported by CMT’s talented executive team. Suzanne Norman (SVP, Program Operations), Anthony Barton (SVP, Consumer Marketing and Creative), Kurt Patat (SVP, Corporate Communications), Margaret Comeaux (VP, Production – Music & Events) and Leslie Fram (SVP, Music Strategy & Talent) will report directly to Frank. Leslie will also dual report into Bruce Gillmer, the Head of Music and Music Talent for the Global Entertainment Group.
We are also taking this opportunity to align Development resources across the organization. As a result, Jayson Dinsmore (EVP Development and Production) will now report into Keith Cox, President of Production & Development for Paramount Network and TV Land. Brian will work closely with this group to ensure a smooth transition with minimal interruption.
CMT is an iconic brand with a large and loyal audience, and Viacom remains committed to supporting its continued growth. The leadership structure announced today will more closely align CMT with the Paramount Network and TV Land, while ensuring it maintains its country roots.
I’ve so enjoyed working with Brian over the past few months, and would like to thank him for his many contributions to CMT and Viacom over the years. Please join me in wishing him the best of luck as he starts his next venture. And, to everyone else at CMT, thank you for your continued hard work, commitment and creativity.
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