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Keith Cox Officially Given Reins at Spike TV, Sharon Levy Announces Departure

Variety logo Variety 2/21/2017 Oriana Schwindt
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Spike TV — on the cusp of becoming Paramount Network — has officially been put under the purview of TV Land president Keith Cox, and will officially be losing its executive vice president of original programming. As previously reported,Sharon Levy will be departing the network ahead of its rebranding.

Cox, whose title is president of development and production, will now oversee the strategic development and production of all series for both TV Land and the newly-announced Paramount Network (slated for early 2018). In his tenure at TV Land, he oversaw the development of multi-cam originals like “Hot in Cleveland” and the network’s more recent forays into single-cams like Darren Star’s “Younger.”

“Keith has done an incredible job in building TV Land’s slate of strong original scripted series over the last 10 years and reigniting the brand, and I’m thrilled to work with him as he continues to bring his strong creativity and unparalleled talent relationships to the Paramount Network,” said Viacom Global Entertainment Group president Kevin Kay. 

Cox added, “I am so excited to have the privilege to help build a new premium channel from the ground up with The Paramount Network. It is an extraordinary opportunity to set a new bar for high-quality, character-driven content that resonates with audiences around the world.”

In her dozen years at the network, Levy had overseen the launch of unscripted mainstays like “Ink Master,” in addition to its more recent scripted efforts like “The Mist” and “Tut.” Her departure follows Viacom CEO Bob Bakish’s unveiling of broader plans for the media conglomerate that include turning Spike into a more general entertainment hub, rather than the current reality-heavy network it currently is. “You had Spike TV trying to launch (drama) ‘The Mist,’ but the problem was they were only launching ‘The Mist,’” Bakish told Variety. “They didn’t have enough to develop a night.”

Levy sent out the following e-mail Tuesday, in which she calls out mentor Doug Herzog’s Instagram as an inspiration:

Dear Team Spike –

As the winds of change blow through our hallways, bringing excitement for what will come, it is also the perfect time for me to do a little soul searching.

I have reached a very hard decision which is to answer the call of the wild and leave Spike to pursue other opportunities.

The network has been a great life adventure, bringing me from deserts of Morocco to the remote countryside of Nova Scotia and everywhere in between. From enduring an intensely hot and humid August day in Manhattan to shoot the pilot of Ink Master to trudging through five feet of snow to meet Jay Z on the red carpet at Sundance, it certainly has been a wild ride. I have collaborated with every type of artist our medium shares, from writers, actors, producers, directors, documentarians, comedians and animators. And somehow it never felt like work and that is all because of you. Please keep this place special and continue to be kind to one another, no matter what the future throws at you. It has always been the underdog spirit that has made Spike one of the greatest places to be, and carrying that torch is on each of you.

I want to thank Kevin Kay for ten years of partnership, his faith and bravery, and most importantly his sense of humor. We have been together more than most marriages and that is truly impressive. I would not even have had this opportunity to lead development and programming for all these years if it hadn’t been for my mentor and dear friend, Doug Herzog, a world class leader who continues to inspire in all ways, especially his current Instagram feed.

And now the hard part, the inner circle. I have been the luckiest girl in the world to come in to the office every day and be partners with an amazing team. Chachi, Ted, Hayley, Lauren, Tori, Justin, Chaz, Erin, Ryan, Todd and Danielle. You have calmed me down on turbulent flights, picked every restaurant I have eaten at in the last two years, showed me how to bargain shop, introduced me to the world of cool sneakers, and that’s just a Tuesday. We have made some great TV together, and some less so, but we have always pushed and supported each other to be the best we could be and did it while laughing, a lot. I will miss you, but our connections are deeper than the place we call work. My greatest gift from Spike has been this group of people I will call friends forever.

There are so many great things to come for you all, and I will be here for the next couple of weeks helping keep the trains on the tracks and gearing up for the exciting launch of my personal favorite project, “Time: The Kalief Browder Story.” I will always root for Team Spike, and am excited to see all the amazing accomplishments you create together over the next year. Go big or go home.

Your fan,

Sharon Levy

Kay sent out a note of his own regarding Levy’s departure:

Team –

I want to let you know that Sharon Levy has decided to step down from her role as Executive Vice President of Original Series for Spike.

For the last 12 years, Sharon has been a big part of the Spike family. As head of development, she has been instrumental in the success and maturation of the Spike brand through the years – from a male-focused network to the big, bold and broad entertainment destination it is today.

Under her watch, she introduced the world to the lovable and occasionally bombastic Jon Taffer, she made competitive tattooing a TV sensation, she oversaw the most compelling story ever made about the legendary Egyptian king Tut, and most recently, she oversaw the development of Stephen King’s “The Mist” and joined forces with Jay Z and Harvey Weinstein to tell the story of an innocent 16 year-old wronged by the criminal justice system.

But above everything else, she has always been a great partner, teammate, and friend to me and to the entire staff and she will be missed.

On behalf of everyone at Spike, I can say we are so incredibly thankful for everything she has accomplished at Spike and for her unmatched enthusiasm, passion, and love for brand – and its team members.

We know that wherever her next adventure takes her, she will always be The One To Watch!

Kevin

As for Cox’s promotion, here’s Kay’s internal memo:

Team –

I’d like to share some exciting news about an incredibly smart, creative, and forward-thinking colleague of ours.

Keith Cox has been promoted to President, Development and Production for Paramount Network and TV Land.

Keith has played an integral role in TV Land’s ascension over the last decade. He is a developer of award-winning, critically-acclaimed, high-quality and buzz worthy scripted original series from “Hot in Cleveland” to “Younger” to “Teachers” to the highly-anticipated “Nobodies” from the powerhouse comedy team of Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone.

Keith has a phenomenal track record of shepherding relevant and compelling programming that connects with viewers and appeals to advertisers. I am confident he will bring that midas touch with big, bold distinctive original series for the Paramount Network and continue to deliver watercooler-worthy shows to TV Land. Please join me congratulating Keith on his well-deserved new position.

Kevin

Pictured above: Kevin Kay, Sharon Levy, Chachi Senior

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