MTV Names Sean Atkins New President

MTV might be signaling a move in digital direction with the appointment of veteran digital media executive Sean Atkins as MTV President. He replaces Stephen Friedman, whose exit was announced a short time ago. Atkins will report to Doug Herzog, President of Viacom Music and Entertainment Group.

Atkins will oversee all creative and business operations for MTV and sister networks MTV2 and mtvU. He joins MTV from Discovery Communications, where he most recently served as General Manager & EVP of Digital Media and Strategy.

MTV’s programming co-heads — Mina Lefevre, EVP and Head of Scripted Development, and Lauren Dolgen, Head of Reality Programming and EVP of Series Development, who succeeded MTV Programming President Susanne Daniels — will report to Atkins.

“Sean is smart, creative, passionate and remarkably energized about the sea change at hand in our industry,” said Herzog. “The strength of MTV lies in its ability to constantly reinvent, and Sean’s forward-thinking, versatile leadership will ensure our brand and business continue to evolve and deliver for our audience.”

As a brand for millennials, MTV’s ratings have been impacted seriously by the younger generation’s move away from traditional television as twentysomethings cut the cord and consume content almost exclusively on digital platforms. Herzog had met a number of candidates for the job in the past few months (Friedman had given notice in April), both from the media and tech world. I hear Atkins’ strong digital background and command of the new-media landscape were top selling points that, paired with his experience in TV production and leadership qualities, landed him the job.

At Discovery, Atkins was responsible for driving the company’s original online video strategy and networks including Revision3, SourceFed, Discovery News and TestTube. He was a driving force behind Discovery’s 2012 acquisition of millennial-focused Revision3.

Prior to joining the Digital Media team, Atkins ran the West Coast for Discovery Studios, Discovery Communications’ full-service production studio that develops and produces original programming. In this role, he managed development and production of all programming out of Los Angeles and supervised series including Penn & Teller Tell a Lie, King Of The Crown, Deception With Keith Barry, Home Made Simple and Ultimate Cake Off.

Atkins joined Discovery Communications from HBO where, as SVP Digital Media, he helped build the platform that ultimately became HBOGo. Previously, he was head of programming and development at Yahoo! Entertainment and acting COO for Vulcan Programming, a project with Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures and A. Smith & Co. where he managed the development and creation of a slate of cable networks. Atkins served concurrently as EVP of A. Smith & Co, overseeing development and production for the company’s broad slate of projects with more than 20 networks.

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