CBS Merges Specials & Alternative Programming Departments Under Head Of Specials Jack Sussman

By Nellie Andreeva, Peter White


EXCLUSIVE: CBS Entertainment has combined the network’s specials and alternative programming units under Jack Sussman, a 22-year CBS veteran who has overseen the network’s specials since 1998, most recently as EVP, Specials, Music and Live Events. In the new setup, Sussman will take on additional responsibilities and head the combined department.

The restructuring comes three months after Sharon Vuong exited CBS as SVP and head of alternative. Her top lieutenant, VP Alternative Mitch Graham, who has been shepherding the network’s unscripted slate following Vuong’s departure, has been promoted to SVP, Alternative Programming, CBS Entertainment, reporting to Sussman. Graham will continue to focus on CBS’ current reality series and new development. Two alternative programming VP, Laura Silva and Chris Aagaard, will continue to report to Graham, while newly promoted Manager, Specials, Mackenzie Mitchell, will report to Sussman.

“Jack is simply one of the best, most experienced and most respected execs in the business, and we couldn’t be in better hands with him overseeing our amazing collection of world-class specials and alternative franchises,” said Kelly Kahl, President, CBS Entertainment. “Mitch will continue to be the day-to-day point person on all things reality, as well as take on a larger leadership role in this newly combined department. This is an absolutely terrific team.”

Sussman has had his hand in the alternative arena as CBS’ executive in charge of live event entertainment programming, such as Survivor finales and reunion specials. There have been growing synergies between the departments In recent years, and unscripted specials have served as backdoor pilots for potential alternative series.

This is the latest post-merger consolidation move at ViacomCBS, which has been looking for efficiencies on both sides of the combined company.

As head of specials, Sussman will continue to oversee the network’s events and specials, such as The Grammy Awards, The Tony Awards and the Kennedy Center Honors as well as the Academy of Country Music Awards and A Home For the Holidays.

During his tenure at CBS, Sussman has been responsible for some of CBS’ highest-rated and well-received specials, including The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers, which was seen by more than 30 million viewers, Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special, and I Love Lucy 50th Anniversary Special.

Sussman joined CBS in August 1998 as VP, Specials, from Cinecanal; he was promoted to SVP, Specials in 2000, and to EVP in 2006. From 1996-1997, Sussman was VP, Head of Programming for MTV Latin America. Prior to that, he served as VP of Production and Original Programming at VH1 from 1992-1995. Sussman’s background also includes positions at CNN and NBC News.

Graham joined CBS’ Alternative department in 2013 as VP. He oversees CBS’ reality slate, including Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, Lover Island and Undercover Boss. He was also directly involved in the development of the network’s new summer series Game On! and Tough As Nails. Graham started at CBS in 1999 in the publicity department, rising to the level of director before moving to Alternative.

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