As expected, ViacomCBS Jan. 31 announced that George Cheeks has been appointed president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group, effective March 23, 2020. He succeeds Joe Ianniello, chairman and CEO of CBS, who will be leaving the company. Ianniello will work with the company to ensure a smooth transition.
Cheeks joins ViacomCBS from NBCUniversal, where he most recently served as vice chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios. In his new role, Cheeks will lead CBS-branded assets, including 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. He will also partner with the ViacomCBS digital organization on the CBS-branded digital assets, including CBS All Access. Cheeks will report to Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS.
“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,” Bakish said in a statement. “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.”
Bakish praised Ianniello for his 22 years at CBS, which included stints as COO and negotiating the minefield following the ouster of previous CEO Les Moonves for inappropriate workplace behavior.
“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,” Bakish said.
Ianniello doesn’t leave empty handed. The executive reportedly got a $100 million severance following the merger between CBS and Viacom. He got millions more as acting CEO of CBS Entertainment Group.
“Throughout my 22-year tenure I have always said that the quality and integrity of the people of CBS are what make it great,” said Ianniello. “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.”
During his time as acting CEO, Ianniello successfully grew CBS into a global multiplatform premium content company. Prior to that as COO since 2013, he was responsible for establishing and executing company strategy across all businesses. In addition, Ianniello developed and spearheaded the company’s monetization strategy across platforms, including retransmission consent fees and reverse compensation from local television station affiliates, as well as 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 “over-the-top” streaming service. He led CBS’ acquisition of Network 10 in Australia and the split-off of CBS Radio through a merger with Entercom. In addition, he led the conversion of CBS Outdoor into a real-estate investment trust, marking a first for an outdoor advertising business.
As Vice Chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios, Cheeks helped run NBCUniversal’s television studios. Previously, he served as Co-Chairman of NBC Entertainment, where he was jointly responsible for the network’s primetime, late night and scripted daytime programming – including business affairs, marketing, communications, scheduling, West Coast research and digital operations and first-run syndication.
Prior to joining NBC in 2012, Cheeks served as EVP, 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 served in legal roles at Nickelodeon, MTV, CMT and LOGO.