Less than two months after CBS and Viacom officially merged, the combined company is preparing for its first major top executive shakeup.
George Cheeks will step in for Joe Ianniello as president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group, beginning March 23, with Ianniello leaving the company.
Cheeks comes from NBCUniversal, where he had been working since October as vice chairman of NBCUniversal Content Studios following an NBCUniversal leadership shuffle. Prior to that, he had served as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment alongside Paul Telegdy.
In his CBS role, Cheeks will oversee all CBS assets in ViacomCBS, including the CBS network (encompassing CBS Entertainment, CBS News and CBS Sports), CBS Television Studios, the CBS television stations and CBS’ first-run syndication business. He’ll report to ViacomCBS president and CEO Bob Bakish.
“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 said in a statement.
Ianniello, who had been with CBS for 22 years, said in a statement, “I am very pleased to be able to leave CBS well positioned for long-term success,” adding, “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.”
Cheeks said in a statement that he was “incredibly honored to join the stellar CBS team and help lead these incredible brands forward. 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.”
Two weeks ago, Cheeks had abruptly departed NBCUniversal amid reports that he was in line to succeed Ianniello.
This is a homecoming for Cheeks, who before joining NBC in 2012 had served as evp of business affairs and general counsel for Viacom Music and Entertainment Group, while also working as head of standards and practices for Viacom Media. He had previously worked at Viacom in legal roles at Nickelodeon, MTV, CMT and Logo.
Prior to the CBS-Viacom merger, Ianniello had been acting CBS CEO since Les Moonves exited the company in September 2018 following more than a dozen accusations of sexual harassment and intimidation. (He had previously served as CBS COO since 2013.) He became chairman and CEO of CBS when ViacomCBS was formed on Dec. 4.