MTV Networks insiders said Judy McGrath has the edge in the contest to succeed Tom Freston as chairman.
But Freston is facing a potential domino effect from other senior MTVN executives jockeying for position, turf, and money. Freston-the new co-COO of MTVN parent Viacom-had hoped to name his successor last week, but delayed an announcement because he couldn’t close deals with his top people.
The big winner is expected to be McGrath, group president in charge of MTV, VH1, and Comedy Central.
The MTV veteran is touted for her ability to create brands and hip programming. But if she ascends, Freston will have to placate others.
High on that list is Brian Graden, the programming whiz who reshaped MTV with a string of hits. MTV execs say Graden wants a stake in Comedy Central and more money.
Freston would also need to mollify Herb Scannel, a respected MTVN group president who runs Nickelodeon, Nick-at-Nite, and Spike TV. Traditionally, Scannel and McGrath have moved in lockstep. It’s not clear what Scannel’s next step would be.
Insiders believe that Van Toffler, president of MTV, MTV2, and VH1, would step into McGrath’s shoes. But it’s unclear whether he would keep Comedy Central, which just brought back its ex-president and MTV programming vet Doug Herzog.
If McGrath does move up, Herzog -- the former USA Network president -- will prod Freston to separate Comedy Central from MTV, which McGrath would continue to oversee.