CMT President Brian Philips Steps Down After 16 Years; Frank Tanki Promoted to General Manager

“This was a tough decision,” Philips wrote in an internal memo

CMT President Brian Philips has decided to step down from his post after 16 years, the network announced Thursday.

“For some time, I’ve been contemplating a change (more on that soon), but agreed to stay to help navigate through the recent exciting ‘brand renewal,'” he said in an internal memo sent out to employees. “This was a tough decision; I remain a fan and champion of each of you. I love, live and breathe this brand.”

Philips has been with the network since 2001, overseeing day-to-day management and overall growth strategy. A CMT press release credits him for doubling its subscriber base and for creating content in multiple fields, including scripted and unscripted.

Before joining CMT, Philips had a career in radio, where was nominated for Billboard’s “Major Market PD of the Year” across three different formats. He was also called the “Most Innovative Programmer in America” by Virtually Alternative magazine back in the 1990s.

“I joined CMT as an ambitious-but-unenlightened wayward radio character,” he continued, adding that he learned about TV from his mentors and from his employees.

Philips will be remaining to help with the transition.

Meanwhile, Frank Tanki has been promoted to general manager of CMT in addition to his role as general manager at TV Land. He’ll overseeing the day-to-day operations of CMT and TV Land, taking over some of Philips’ responsibilities.

Tanki is a 12-year veteran at Viacom, having most recently served as the executive vice president of brand marketing and creative at Spike TV and helping with the launch of popular series like “Lip Sync Battle” and “Bar Rescue.”

According to CMT, the network just had its highest-rated fiscal 3rd quarter since 2014 with 14 percent growth among adults 18-49. It is also the fastest growing Top 50, non-news channel with women in that same age group.

Read Philips’ full memo below.

Today I’m writing to share the news that I’ve decided to step down as President of CMT.

For some time, I’ve been contemplating a change (more on that soon), but agreed to stay to help navigate through the recent exciting “brand renewal”. This was a tough decision; I remain a fan and champion of each of you. I love, live and breathe this brand. Change is difficult, especially after all we’ve endured together! Fortunately, we have the best senior staff team in place in our history, and I am confident they will continue the remarkable work we’ve done together.

I cherish the time I’ve spent here with you over the last 16 years. I joined CMT as an ambitious-but-unenlightened wayward radio character. I had the early good fortune to learn from masters of the medium, the creative firebrands who built the glorious MTV Networks group. Later, learning from Nickelodeon’s geniuses was another invaluable experience. I’m glad I don’t have to list my many brilliant mentors here. They are known to all, of course, their names are legend.

Most of all, I learned so much about TV from you, my awe at your abilities has simply never ceased. We at CMT grew up together and I’m forever changed and made better by each of you. I think of the early days when we worked from a shelled-out Opryland building on a dime-store budget, a small country music video jukebox in a town nobody wanted to visit. Fast forward to today, Nashville is one of the most vibrant cities in the world. CMT has forged its place in this dazzling new environment, all while remaining true to the brand promise.

I leave you as CMT enters what we all believe will be a very strong era. Ratings are up across all dayparts, driving more than 7 months of year-over-year growth. We’ve attracted new fans and advertisers with “Nashville” and successfully converted them to regular CMT viewership. Our creative resurgence continues and the channel looks better than ever! Recent CMT Music Awards and Crossroads have been widely acclaimed as two of the very best we’ve ever done. Our summer line-up of originals is solid, and we’re developing some innovative new series that will ensure our future.

I’ll be sticking around awhile to help with the transition and look forward to personal time with you. I will swing through NY and Hollywood offices to further express my gratitude. Your friendship and kindness mean the world to me, and all of the outrageous fun and laughter we’ve shared will be what I remember most fondly. Keep the faith.

More soon, but I wanted you to hear this first from me. Have a great holiday weekend!

With much love, Brian

Read Tanki’s full internal memo below.

Team- I am honored and thrilled to be joining the CMT family. I’m a longtime fan of the channel and thoroughly impressed by all the incredible work you’ve done, especially in the last year. You’ve set an impressive course to take this iconic brand to new heights and I couldn’t be prouder to help realize that vision.

Brian has led the brand to an ambitious resurgence; setting a high-bar excellence that I will strive to hit. He has kindly agreed to join me and the senior team as we begin the transition process.  And I want to thank him for that commitment.

Our goal will be to continue CMT’s upward trajectory to further extend the power of our palpable voice. Working together, we’ll develop new opportunities that tap the combined reach of both CMT and TV Land like never before. The opportunities are endless and each of you will play a critical role in our success.

You are our greatest resource, so my top priority will be getting to know each and everyone of you over the coming days and weeks.  

In the meantime, remain focused and steadfast. We’ve got an eventful summer ahead as we roll out new episodes of “Nashville,” and premiere new seasons of “Still The King,” “I Love Kellie Pickler,” “Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making the Team,” and “Hot 20.” 

Enjoy the holiday weekend. Look forward to seeing you soon. Frank