CMT President Brian Philips To Depart After 16 Years At the Viacom Network

Brian Philips is leaving his post as president of CMT. He has led the country music-driven channel for 16 years, first as SVP and General Manager and then as president, a position he’s held since 2009.

In an internal memo to his staff, obtained by Deadline (you can read it in full below), Philips said that he had “been contemplating a change, but agreed to stay to help navigate through the recent exciting ‘brand renewal.'”

“This was a tough decision,” he added. “I remain a fan and champion of each of you. I love, live and breathe this brand.”

Fueled by the success of drama transplant Nashville, CMT is coming off 29 consecutive weeks of year-over-year growth in adults 18-49 and just posted its highest-rated fiscal 3rd quarter since 2014. Philips recently unveiled CMT’s biggest summer programming slate to date with new episodes of Nashville and new seasons of Still The King, I Love Kellie Pickler, and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team.

Philips, a well respected executive and Nashville fixture, has deep ties in the country music business. As a radio programming manager before joining CMT in 2001, he led a station in Dallas to Billboard’s major-market country station of the year award. At CMT, Philips — who described himself as “an ambitious-but-unenlightened wayward radio character” at the time he joined the TV network — presided over more than a decade of ratings growth as CMT doubled its subscriber base and expanded its footprint to other media platforms.

Philips’ departure follows the recent realignment of Viacom’s cable networks under new CEO Bob Bakish. It saw CMT — once a long-time part of MTV Networks — and TV Land move from the Kids & Family Group to the Global Entertainment Group under the oversight of Spike (soon-to-be Paramount Network) president Kevin Kay who now serves as president of Spike, TV Land and CMT.

Philips is the latest veteran Viacom executive to leave the company which has been undergoing a series of reorganizations in the past couple of years.

Here is Philips’ goodbye note to his colleagues, in which he reminisces on his tenure and CMT’s and his evolution over the past 16 years:

Today I’m writing to share the news that I’ve decided to step down as President of CMT.

For some time, I’ve been contemplating a change (more on that soon), but agreed to stay to help navigate through the recent exciting “brand renewal”. This was a tough decision; I remain a fan and champion of each of you. I love, live and breathe this brand. Change is difficult, especially after all we’ve endured together! Fortunately, we have the best senior staff team in place in our history, and I am confident they will continue the remarkable work we’ve done together.

I cherish the time I’ve spent here with you over the last 16 years. I joined CMT as an ambitious-but-unenlightened wayward radio character. I had the early good fortune to learn from masters of the medium, the creative firebrands who built the glorious MTV Networks group. Later, learning from Nickelodeon’s geniuses was another invaluable experience. I’m glad I don’t have to list my many brilliant mentors here. They are known to all, of course, their names are legend.

Most of all, I learned so much about TV from you, my awe at your abilities has simply never ceased. We at CMT grew up together and I’m forever changed and made better by each of you. I think of the early days when we worked from a shelled-out Opryland building on a dime-store budget, a small country music video jukebox in a town nobody wanted to visit. Fast forward to today, Nashville is one of the most vibrant cities in the world. CMT has forged its place in this dazzling new environment, all while remaining true to the brand promise.

I leave you as CMT enters what we all believe will be a very strong era. Ratings are up across all dayparts, driving more than 7 months of year-over-year growth. We’ve attracted new fans and advertisers with “Nashville” and successfully converted them to regular CMT viewership. Our creative resurgence continues and the channel looks better than ever! Recent CMT Music Awards and Crossroads have been widely acclaimed as two of the very best we’ve ever done. Our summer line-up of originals is solid, and we’re developing some innovative new series that will ensure our future.

I’ll be sticking around awhile to help with the transition and look forward to personal time with you. I will swing through NY and Hollywood offices to further express my gratitude. Your friendship and kindness mean the world to me, and all of the outrageous fun and laughter we’ve shared will be what I remember most fondly. Keep the faith.

More soon, but I wanted you to hear this first from me. Have a great holiday weekend!

With much love, Brian

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