George Cheeks, formerly vice chairman of NBCUniversal Content Studios, is set to lead CBS Entertainment as long-time CBS executive Joe Ianniello exits following a 22-year career with the company.
Confirming previous speculation, Cheeks (pictured) will step into the role of president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group on March 23 where he will be responsible for leading CBS-branded assets. These include CBS Television Network, which encompasses CBS Entertainment, CBS News and CBS Sports, CBS Television Studios and CBS Television Stations and CBS’ first-run syndication business.
The executive will also partner with the ViacomCBS digital organization on the CBS-branded digital assets, including CBS All Access.
Ianniello will work with ViacomCBS to ensure a smooth transition for Cheeks. He had been tapped as chairman and CEO of CBS when Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. announced a December closing date for their merger last year.
Cheeks will report directly to Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS.
The move marks a return to the ViacomCBS fold for Cheeks, where he was for 14 years prior to NBCUniversal. In 1998, he acted as senior counsel for MTV Networks. By 2005 he was elevated to executive vice president and general counsel for MTV, MTV2, MTVu, MTV Films, VH1, CMT and Logo.
“I am thrilled to welcome George back to the family at this exciting moment for ViacomCBS,” said Bakish in a statement. “Throughout his career, George has built broad experience in broadcast and studio operations and brings a unique mix of skills –combining deep commercial expertise and industry relationships with strong creative and programming capabilities. With his finger on the pulse of culture and change and his strong grasp of strategy, brands, audiences and content monetization, George will help CBS build on its position as the most-watched broadcast network and drive results across the entire CBS portfolio.”
With more than 25 years of media and entertainment industry experience, Cheeks most recently served as vice chairman of NBCUniversal Content Studios where he helped run NBCUniversal’s television studios.
Prior to this, he served as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment alongside Paul Teledgy. The pair were jointly responsible for overseeing all aspects of primetime, late night and scripted daytime programming for the network, including business affairs, marketing, communications, scheduling, West Coast research and digital operations, as well as first-run syndication.
Cheeks and Teledgy were named as successors to outgoing NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt.
Previous to joining NBC, Cheeks held the title of EVP for business affairs and general counsel for Viacom Music and Entertainment Group while also serving as head of standards and practices for Viacom Media. Before that, he held legal roles at Nickelodeon, MTV, CMT, LOGO and Castle Rock Entertainment.
Ianniello, meanwhile, most recently served as president and acting CEO. Prior to that, Ianniello served as CBS’ chief operating officer since 2013, where he was responsible for establishing and executing the company’s strategy across all businesses.
In addition, he spearheaded CBS’ monetization strategy across platforms, including the licensing of the CBS Corporation content around the world for digital streaming and broadband services. He also oversaw the launch of CBS All Access, CBS’ digital subscription video on-demand and live streaming service, as well as Showtime’s OTTstreaming service
“I am very pleased to be able to leave CBS well positioned for long-term success,” added Ianniello. “Throughout my 22-year tenure I have always said that the quality and integrity of the people of CBS are what make it great. We have extraordinary employees at all levels of this organization, and I couldn’t be prouder of how they do their jobs day in and day out. Working with Bob, I now look forward to ensuring a smooth transition to the next phase of leadership of CBS, so that the Eye can continue to thrive, just as it has for so long.”
“I’m grateful to Joe for his many contributions to CBS and for the meaningful role he has played in bringing the CBS and Viacom teams together,” Bakish continued. “Thanks in no small part to his efforts, the CBS brand has a strong and loyal following across a variety of platforms – positioning it well for this important next chapter. The board and I wish Joe every success in his future endeavors.”
With files from Frederick Blichert