MTVN’s Digital Media Chief to Exit

NEW YORK Mika Salmi (shown at right), MTV Networks’ president of global digital media, is leaving the company to pursue other endeavors.

His position, created in November 2006, will not be filled as MTVN’s digital leadership duties will be absorbed by Greg Clayman, evp, digital distribution and business development and Nada Stirratt, evp, digital ad sales.

Salmi is the founder and former CEO of Atom Entertainment, which MTVN acquired in August 2006. In a memo issued to MTVN staffers on Thursday, company CEO Judy McGrath indicated his next move would be similarly entrepreneurial in nature.

“Mika Salmi, our indomitable president of global digital media and champion of all things open, flat and connected, has decided to leave MTV Networks to write the next chapter in his eclectic career,” she wrote. “The entrepreneurial spirit that served him so well here and as the founder of Atom is calling him to pursue the next wave of opportunities. We thank him and wish him the very best of luck, wherever his travels take him.”

Salmi’s tenure was marked by solid growth, but lacked breakout successes. Under his leadership, MTVN dropped its strategy of launching stand-alone video channels and moved toward more narrowly focused properties, such as show-specific sites for Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report and Nickelodeon’s iCarly.

The company also expanded its online sales strategy under Salmi, establishing Tribes, a series of vertical ad networks. It also made a significant investment in online gaming.

However, MTVN has continued to wrestle with how best to approach the rapidly changing digital landscape. It has largely missed out on the increasingly popular — though still hardly lucrative — social networking phenomenon. And parent company Viacom remains embroiled in a lawsuit with Google’s YouTube over rights issues. MTVN has instead focused on distributing its content via professional-content hubs such as Joost and Hulu, along with its own sites.

Officials report that MTVN’s collection of sites now stream nearly 400 million videos on a monthly basis, an increase of 300 percent vs. two years ago. But several pre-Salmi acquisitions have not panned out. These include iFilm, which eventually morphed into Spike TV’s Web outlet, and even, now one of many similar comedy destinations online.