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MTV divvies up programming, production duties to diversify lineup

November 9, 2010 |  6:34 pm

MTV Networks on Tuesday elevated relatively recent hire David Janollari to be in charge of its programming and simultaneously tapped a 20-year MTV veteran, Chris Linn, to head up production and reality shows on the East Coast.  

David Janollari The moves underscore the network's plans to wean itself from its indulgence of reality shows about glamorous and wealthy young adults that seemed out of step with the economic times and were not generating strong ratings. Eighteen months ago, network managers faced a sobering reality that its shows were not connecting with the so-called millennial generation, those younger than 30.

Since then, MTV has scored with its blockbuster hit "Jersey Shore" and "Teen Mom." Two shows that have an appeal beyond the rich and chic set. The network's ratings were up 27% for the recently ended quarter among its target demographic of viewers aged 12 to 34.  Now, the network wants to add a few scripted hits. It launched one high profile show this year — "The Hard Times of RJ Berger" — a comedy about a well-endowed high school student (think HBO's "Hung" meets "Napoleon Dynamite").

"Our mantra is diversification," Janollari said.  "A diversification of genres is something our audience wants and will embrace and something that we haven't served up in a number of years."

The MTV executive realignment has been in the works for more than a year.  In late 2009, MTV's programming chief, Tony DiSanto, told the network brass that he wanted to move on and become a producer when his contract expired in late 2010.  In January, the network hired Janollari, who has worked both as a TV executive and a producer, to build a pipeline of scripted shows.

Chris Linn Janollari was an executive producer of HBO's "Six Feet Under" and was president of entertainment for the young-skewing WB network, a job that ended when the network folded in 2006. He also spent many years at Warner Bros. TV.

Janollari becomes executive vice president and head of programming in charge of scripted programming, animation and reality shows developed by MTV's West Coast staff.  He will continue to be based in the network's Santa Monica offices. 

"MTV needs to shed its skin every three years.  We are placing big bets with our scripted franchises," said MTV's general manager Stephen Friedman.  He mentioned two prospects, "Skins" and "Teen Wolf."

Janollari also will work with Linn on reality shows based on the East Coast.  Linn will manage made-for-TV movies, news and specials, studio productions, music development and production management.

"We wanted to create a very clean structure where there were two people as leaders and not five different people out there competing with each other," Friedman said. He said Janollari and Linn "both have big lanes to run in, we see them working very well together."

— Meg James

Photos of David Janollari (top right) and Chris Linn (bottom left) courtesy of MTV