MTV poaches Discovery exec as Friedman exits

US cable channel MTV has a new president following the exit of previous incumbent Stephen Friedman, who is leaving the Viacom business after 18 years.

Sean AtkinsMTV has drafted in Discovery Communications executive Sean Atkins to take on the post, as changes at Viacom’s domestic cable business continue following a major company-wide restructure.

He will oversee all creative and business operations for the youth-skewed channel, and those of sister channels MTV2 and mtvU, reporting to Doug Herzog, who was named president of Viacom Music and Entertainment Group earlier this year.

At Discovery, he was most recently general manager and executive VP of digital media and strategy, overseeing original online video strategy and multichannel networks including Revision3, SourceFed, Discovery News, and TestTube.

With Atkins coming in, long-serving president Friedman exits, following MTV colleague Van Toffler (who was MTV Networks Music & Logo Group president) out the door. Toffler’s role was subsequently split between Herzog and Cyma Zarghami. MTV programming chief Susan Daniels also left following the restructuring.

Other recent changes have seen Tom Calderone replaced with Chris McCarthy at the top of VH1 and reality producer Lauren Dolgen overseeing a merged east coast and west coast development unit.

EVP and head of reality programming Dolgen now reports to Atkins, as does EVP and head of scripted development Mina Lefevre.

Atkins also has experience in development, having run Discovery Studios’ west coast operation. Before Discovery, he was senior VP of digital media at HBO, head of programming and development at Yahoo! Entertainment, was acting COO of Vulcan Programming and EVP of A. Smith & Co. He has also worked at Warner Bros., Mediaconnex and The Walt Disney Company.

“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.”