After 17 years with MTV Networks, the parent company of MTV, BET, VH1, and Nickelodeon, Christina Norman will leave her post as president at the end of the month to pursue other interests. Norman became president of MTV in 2005, and simultaneously became one of the highest-ranked African Americans in television.
The popular cable channel, which boasts a majority of viewers between 12 and 24, was struggling in ratings with other demographic groups, especially during commercials. Under Norman’s leadership, the channel instituted a commercial engagement model, airing interstitials and short-form programming between breaks. Advertisers including Procter & Gamble and American Eagle participated in the experiment, which helped rejuvenate the channel’s viewership and bottom line. MTV has averaged 593,000 viewers in the TV season to date, up from 553,000 viewers in the season prior.
Van Toffler, president, MTV Networks Music & Logo Group, said in a statement, “Christina’s mark on our company is indelible, and it’s worth noting that she reinvented herself and our businesses along the way. She grew from a freelance production manager to lead all of the marketing efforts for MTV, including the successful launch of MTV2. In 2002, she was tapped to architect VH1’s rebirth, gave the world Celebreality along with Hip Hop Honors, and shepherded the network to creative and ratings highs. She brought the same talent and vision when she returned to MTV as president, reinventing our big franchise events–The VMAs and The Movie Awards, ramping up new ways for us to partner with advertisers, and working with all of you to create and define the brand vision for MTV that inspired us and helped liberate our thinking.” Under Norman, MTV launched The Hills and A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, which helped the network pull in a total of 1 million eyeballs during primetime, up from 557,000 last year.
Toffler added, “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.”
In an environment where cable networks are using emerging technologies as platforms for their branding efforts, Norman is credited for acquiring the gaming site, Xfire, and the College Media Network for mtvU. She also launched MTVTr3, the first bilingual mobile channel targeting Latino youth.
Norman started her career at MTV Networks as production manager in 1991, working on popular series’ like Beavis and Butt-Head and The Osbournes. In 2004, the Boston University graduate assumed new responsibilities when she was promoted to president of VH1. The fledgling channel was revived with the launch of I Love the 80s and the celebrity reality programs Surreal Life and Flavor of Love. With the addition of these shows, VH1’s primetime audience jumped from 243,000 to 339,000 viewers and it was the most watched year in the network’s history among primetime and total day viewership.