paidContent has learned that Mika Salmi is leaving MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA), where he has been president of Global Digital Media, and that he will not be replaced. Salmi joined MTVN in 2006 after Viacom acquired his start-up Atom Entertainment for $200 million. Some people had him out the door when his contract expired last fall but Salmi told me when we talked this afternoon that he wasn't ready to leave: "There were too many loose ends, too much going on." Instead, he wanted to stay long enough to complete a reorganization designed to reinforce his group's operational role and to move the strategy to the networks and other execs. He'll stay on through March, When I asked who would head digital strategy now, he quickly replied with the names of Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and MTVN CEO Judy McGrath. McGrath is making the announcement now; we have the full memo after the jump.
What next?: Salmi plans to take the break he never had after selling Atom. He's been commuting since then, splitting his time between his wife and three children in San Francisco and an apartment in New York. But he's on the board of four companies and likely will return to entrepreneurial state before long.
A quick word, about a good colleague and friend
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. 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.
If you know Mika, you know he would leave us in very good shape, and only when he accomplished our original goals. In a little more than two years, Mika helped us integrate the great AddictingGames, Shockwave and Atom.com into our MTV Networks portfolio. Along with the really strong individual brands you all know and love, we are more interconnected than ever before, and our position in the overall digital community is stronger. Our fans and consumers, our clients and distributors, the creative and business community ...they all demand digital excellence from us, and we are delivering.
We attract 90 million monthly unique users across our more than 400 Web sites worldwide. We stream close to 400 million videos online each month up almost 300% over two years ago not to mention the nearly 100 million mobile videos or the 20 billion game plays we racked up in 2008. Our Flux social media platform continues to grow, connecting our sites to a community of thousands of external sites and millions of members worldwide. We owe great thanks to Mika and his excellent centralized team, and also to Gideon Bierer, Erik Flannigan, Steve Youngwood, Dermot McCormack and the fantastic digital organization across our International, Entertainment, Kids and Family, Music and Logo groups, respectively.
The numbers are only half the story, though. The other half is the strong and sustainable digital spirit, momentum and infrastructure Mika helped us build. We've elevated games to a key business line and a big driver of our future growth. We have a strong distribution team delivering terrific deals on every platform. We are easier for clients to buy, which is a great improvement in our systems and strategy. We offer a state-of-the-art online video player and our search engine optimization is humming, accounting for 30% of all our site traffic. In short, Mika and all of our digital leaders have done a ton of structural work that results in more eyeballs and bigger dollars, true digital momentum.
Mika's terrific centralized digital team will keep us charging forward. And, of course, Nada Stirratt and her group will wrk tirelessly and creatively to monetize it all. I thank them, too.
It's a fantastic team, top to bottom, across MTV Networks. Mika will be here through the end of March, and he has my gratitude for a great run at the top. Our digital present and future is certainly brighter for his influence and leadership.
By Staci D. Kramer