Industry Moves: Jason Hirschhorn Leaves MTV Networks; Nick Lehman Interim Digital Head

You’re reading it here first … Jason Hirschhorn has resigned from MTV Networks after a six-year run topped off by his late November appointment as chief digital officer. According to Hirschhorn, who confirmed that he was leaving when we called following a tip, he first broached the idea of leaving a few weeks ago to MTVN Chairman and CEO Judy McGrath but wanted to stay through the launch of new music service Urge; details were finalized over the holiday weekend and today is his last full-time day. Hirschhorn told me he’ll be be available to McGrath, Viacom CEO Tom Freston and others during the summer to ensure a smooth transition. Nick Lehman, technically his second in command as EVP-digital media but described by Hirshhorn as “his 50-50 partner,” will be the interim leader of the digital media group.
Update: The move is sure to send rumors flying about office politics. After all, it was only a few months ago that MTV (the network) announced a reorganization with scant mention of MTVN’s Hirschhorn. Both he and an MTVN spokesman insist this move was Hirschhorn’s decision and emphasized that the digital strategy will continue. That strategy involves an MTVN digital media group responsible for a centralized technical structure, making collective wireless and other deals, and keeping a watch on the horizon while the individual networks are responsible for programming their sites. Hirschhorn says McGrath’s mission for him more than two years ago was to “blur the lines” and make sure everyone was involved in digital.
Hirschhorn will take some downtime over the summer. No details on his next move yet but he said his departure stemmed from a desire to be an entrepreneur again — “I want to go back to those beginnings.” He joined MTVN in 2000 with the acquisition of his music-centered Mischief New Media. During his tenure, MTVN moved from informational to programming-oriented sites and made a big splash in broadband and mobile. He wasn’t solely responsible, of course — it took a buy in from the top and the efforts of a lot of people across the company — and MTVN’s progress shouldn’t end here. But how MTVN ultimately handles digital in his wake will say a lot about the company’s present and future.
As for Hirschhorn, I’ve been expecting news of this sort as digital MTVN matured; the most surprising thing may be that he managed to stay corporate this long. Should be interesting to see what he does next.
Update 2: Rafat: To the publications who took our story and did their own without crediting, including AdAge and others (you know who you are), glad we could be of service…but you wouldn’t want to do this again.
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