Television

MTV networks COO Michael Wolf quits

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MUMBAI: There seems to be no end to the executive departures at Sumner Redstone's Viacom Inc. A day after Gail Berman resigned as president of Viacom's Paramount Pictures, putting in less than two years in the organization, MTV Networks president and chief operating officer Michael Wolf is also leaving Viacom's MTVN.

Wolf left McKinsey to join the media group's transition to the digital age but is leaving barely a year later.

According to the company's website, Wolf and MTVN president of affiliate sales and marketing Nicole Browning will be leaving the company.

Wolf led the company's business and technology operations, including advertising sales, affiliate sales and marketing, business and strategy development, business and legal affairs, finance, information systems and technology and production operations.

Browning oversaw the distribution activities of MTV Networks including MTV: Music Television, MTV 2, mtvU, MTV Tr3s, MTV World, VH1, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Spike TV, Comedy Central, Logo, TV Land, Noggin/The N, CMT, VH1 Classic, The Digital Suite from MTV Networks, and BET Networks including BET, BET Gospel, and BET J.

Earlier last week Wolf had revealed to the media that there was a "gap in perception" in the market about Viacom's internet activities. He also added, 'We've been able to accomplish a huge amount in the 15 months I've been here'. During his tenure, Viacom acquired a slew of internet gaming and film startups, including Xfire and Atom Entertainment.

Wolf's departure had been a subject of speculation since Redstone, Viacom's chairman and controlling shareholder, ousted Tom Freston in September 2006 from his post as chief executive and replaced him with board member Philippe Dauman.

It was widely believed that Freston, one of the MTV founders, was blamed for the company's failure to acquire MySpace, the popular social networking site, and the perception that the cable group was being eclipsed by a new generation of youth-oriented media companies.

In early 2006 Viacom's research maven Betsy Frank exited the company after nearly a decade. Company sources pointed out that they would be working with Frank on a consultancy basis over a number of projects. MTVN president ad sales Larry Divney also stepped down on 1 April but would continue to be exclusive consultant to the network on their various projects.

This is the latest in a long line of top ranking executive exits at Viacom's MTV Networks which in hindsight could now be said to have begun with the resignation of MTV COO Mark Rosenthal in 2004 following Judy McGrath's promotion to chairman and CEO of MTV Networks.

The company's January 2006 split from CBS has led to a huge upheaval in its top management ranks. Wolf's departure is the latest in this series. MTVN will begin searches for a new COO and a new head of Affiliate Sales and Marketing immediately it has said.

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