MTV president Stephen Friedman quits; Discovery’s Sean Atkins steps in

MUMBAI: After a seven year stint, MTV president Stephen Friedman is stepping down from his post. The move comes in the wake of ratings drop that MTV’s parent company Viacom Inc. is witnessing on many of its channels.


Soon after Friedman announced his resignation, Viacom said that it had appointed Discovery Communications general manager and executive vice president of digital media and strategy Sean Atkins as MTV's new president. 


Atkins will be overseeing all creative and business operations for the youth entertainment brand and its sister networks, MTV2 and mtvU. He will report to Viacom Music and Entertainment Group president Doug Herzog.


MTV’s programming co-heads, executive vice president and head of scripted development Mina Lefevre and head of reality programming and executive vice president of series development Lauren Dolgen will report directly to Atkins.


“Sean is smart, creative, passionate, and remarkably energized about the sea change at hand in our industry. 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,” said Herzog.


With experience at Discovery, HBO, and Yahoo!, Atkins has held leadership positions across development, digital media, production, strategy, marketing, product development, and consumer products. He was a driving force behind Discovery’s 2012 acquisition of millennial-focused Revision3, among the first strategic acquisitions of a multi-channel network by a major media and entertainment company.


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.


Atkins joined Discovery from HBO where, as senior vice president of digital media. Previously, he was head of programming and development at Yahoo! Entertainment. Before that he was acting-COO for Vulcan Programming. He served concurrently as executive vice president of A. Smith & Co, overseeing development and production for the company. Previously, Atkins also held positions with Warner Bros., Mediaconnex and Disney.


Meanwhile, in his parting note via an internal memo, Friedman said, “After 18 years, including seven at the helm of MTV, it reminds me of what originally inspired me to work here. When I was hired to create the pro-social department, I was told, ‘Your job will be to use MTV’s superpowers for good.’ While I had personally experienced the cultural power of MTV, it wasn’t until I started working here that I understood the true power behind the brand. Those ‘superpowers’ originate with you. Each of you brings your own calling, your own desire to take risks and make new history.”


Speaking about his next move, he added, “Having been blessed to work with you and be part of this remarkable brand for the better part of my career, I am leaving to return full time to what tempts my soul to rise. My next adventure will be focused full time on giving back, on social impact, and on applying what I’ve learned from MTV about the power of brands and storytelling to create positive change. What MTV understood at its inception, a growing part of the world is now actively pursuing. We’re in the midst of a boom of mission driven companies that are redefining business while tackling some of the biggest social challenges we face.”

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