MTV Networks Music and Logo Group president Van Toffler alerted staffers of Norman’s decision in a memo Thursday. He will fill her role overseeing day-to-day operations at MTV, MTV2, mtvU and MTV.com for now.
While an MTV spokesperson characterized Norman’s leaving as “amicable,” sources familiar with the senior-level-management structure at the company have said for many months that Norman has not been happy there, stemming in part from a sometimes unclear management structure. Norman, Toffler and MTVN Music Group programming president Brian Graden, who also oversees Logo, were longtime colleagues but all tasked with senior responsibilities at the programmer. Toffler will remain president of the MTVN brands, as well as the company’s film division and Logo, and he will take on Norman’s day-to-day duties when she leaves.
The spokesperson declined comment on whether Norman’s contract had expired and on whether the company would seek to fill her role or Toffler would keep those day-to-day duties long-term.
Generally well-liked internally, Norman was sometimes frustrated after returning to MTV as president in 2005. Having headed marketing at the network in her first stead there, she initially left in 2002 to lead VH1 and was then tapped to go back to MTV as president.
While Toffler, in his memo, cited Norman’s accomplishments to include revamping MTV’s awards shows, focusing on new ad opportunities and launching Hispanic-American-targeted digital channel MTV Tr3s, she presided over day-to-day operations for the brand at a tough time for the MTVN flagship channel, where she initially worked as a free-lance production manager.
The network struggled with double-digit ratings dips for months on end before finally stabilizing last year under after a realignment of the programming team under Tony DiSanto (the network was up 2% in primetime during 2007 to an average of 986,000 total viewers). But MTV has also struggled with maintaining its brand as definitively hip in the face of competition from rival cable networks and Web sites like MySpace and Facebook.
An MTV spokesperson refuted poor relations among Norman, Toffler and Graden and said the situation was “all on the up and up” and that Norman was “taking time after 17 years to figure out what’s next.”
“It pains me to see Christina go, but I respect her decision to want to take the time to explore something new after 17 years, which is pretty much impossible to even think about while running the M,” Toffler said in his memo. “Christina has led with incredible integrity, creativity, business savvy, perspective, spirit and humor, and she has championed so many important initiatives at our company and in our culture.”
Toffler cited as other MTV milestones during Norman’s time the network’s serving 1 billion videos on MTV.com, launching popular MTV co-branded video game “Rock Band” and starting several niche Web sites.
“It has been my great honor to work with Christina, and she will always be part of the legend and success of our company,” he said in the memo. “We will miss her and I personally can’t wait to see what incredible feat she will conquer next with the same class and tenacity she has exemplified during her many years here.”