George Cheeks has been appointed president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group, ViacomCBS said on Friday. Effective March 23, 2020, he’ll succeed Joe Ianniello, who was chairman and CEO of CBS.
Ianniello is leaving the company today.
Cheeks joins ViacomCBS from NBCUniversal, where he most recently served as vice chairman of NBCUniversal Content Studios. In his new role, Cheeks will lead CBS-branded assets, including CBS Television Network, which encompasses CBS Entertainment, CBS News and CBS Sports, CBS Television Studios and CBS Television Stations and CBS’ first-run syndication business.
He will also partner with the ViacomCBS digital organization on the CBS-branded digital assets, including CBS All Access. Cheeks will report to Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS.
“I am thrilled to welcome George back to the family at this exciting moment for ViacomCBS,” Bakish said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “Throughout his career, George has built broad experience in broadcast and studio operations and brings a unique mix of skills – combining deep commercial expertise and industry relationships with strong creative and programming capabilities. 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.”
“I’m grateful to Joe for his many contributions to CBS and for the meaningful role he has played in bringing the CBS and Viacom teams together,” Bakish continued. “Thanks in no small part to his efforts, the CBS brand has a strong and loyal following across a variety of platforms – positioning it well for this important next chapter. The Board and I wish Joe every success in his future endeavors.”
“I am very pleased to be able to leave CBS well-positioned for long-term success,” Ianniello added. “Throughout my 22-year tenure I have always said that the quality and integrity of the people of CBS are what make it great. We have extraordinary employees at all levels of this organization, and I couldn’t be prouder of how they do their jobs day in and day out. 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.”
“I am incredibly honored to join the stellar CBS team and help lead these incredible brands forward,” Cheeks said. “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.”
Prior to his work running NBCU studios, Cheeks was co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, where he was part of a two-man team leading the network’s primetime, late-night and scripted daytime programming. Cheeks joined NBC in 2012.
Before his time with CBS’ key competitor, Cheeks was an executive vice president of business affairs and general counsel for the Viacom Music and Entertainment Group. Simultaneously, he was the head of standards and practices for Viacom Media.
CBS and Viacom realigned at the end of 2019.
Interim boss Ianniello had the tough task of following disgraced CBS chief Leslie Moonves. Ianniello, who was part of Moonves’ senior leadership team, was never a Bakish guy. Once it became clear that Viacom and CBS would again become one company, the handwriting was pretty much on the wall for Ianniello.
Cheeks parted ways with NBCUniversal earlier this month, when TheWrap reported he was in “advanced talks” with CBS for a senior executive role. With Steve Burke electing to step down, NBCU has been going through quite a transition period of its own.