ViacomCBS said it has named former NBCUniversal executive George Cheeks as president and CEO of its CBS Entertainment Group, replacing Joseph Ianniello and ending days of speculation surrounding its leadership.
Cheeks will start his new job on March 23. A former Viacom executive -- he served as an EVP at the programmer prior to joining NBCU in 2012 -- he most recently served as vice chairman of 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. He will report to ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish.
“I am thrilled to welcome George back to the family at this exciting moment for ViacomCBS,” Bakish said in a press release. “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.
The Cheeks hiring has been expected for weeks. Ianniello, who has been with CBS since 1997, was expected to leave shortly after the broadcaster completed its merger with Viacom. That deal was completed in December, and since then Ianniello has been named as a possible participant in the auction for Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.
“I am incredibly honored to join the stellar CBS team and help lead these incredible brands forward,” Cheeks said in a press release. “From news to sports to entertainment, CBS sets the standard, and I look forward to building on this tremendous foundation as we find new and innovative ways to deliver CBS to audiences worldwide.”
Ianniello said he would help with the Cheeks transition, but offered no insight into his future plans.
“I am very pleased to be able to leave CBS well positioned for long-term success,” Ianniello said in the press release. “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.”