Kara Swisher

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Project Playlist Names Former MTV Exec Sykes as CEO, Replacing Van Natta


Legendary MTV Networks exec and co-founder John Sykes (pictured here in an interview on PBS’s “Charlie Rose” show) will replace Owen Van Natta as CEO of the controversial music-sharing site, Project Playlist.

He is a high-profile choice to take over for Van Natta, who was officially named CEO of MySpace this morning by News Corp. (NWS).

Van Natta, who also worked at Facebook, will remain an adviser to Playlist, which is based in Silicon Valley. It is not clear where Sykes will be located.

Sykes–who is on the Playlist board–was one of the original executives who launched the iconic music-focused cable channel 25 years ago, before leaving last year. He was also a key exec at both VH1 and Infinity Broadcasting.

He is well regarded in the music industry, an important criterion since Playlist has been dealing with legal attacks from some music labels. Settling with them will be key to the start-up’s survival.

Former AOL and MTV exec Bob Pittman, who is an investor in Playlist, worked closely with Sykes at the Viacom (VIA) unit.


Playlist Names Board Member and Veteran Media Executive
John Sykes as CEO

MTV Co-founder and Former VH-1 President Replaces Owen Van Natta

Palo Alto, Calif., April 24, 2009–Playlist, the leading social media network where over 43 million music fans discover, create and share playlists, announced today that Board Member and industry veteran John Sykes has joined the company as Chief Executive Officer. As a Co-founder of MTV, President of VH1, and CEO of Infinity Broadcasting, Sykes brings extensive operating experience and industry relationships to the company as it partners with the music industry to provide advertising, subscription and e-commerce services to music consumers.

Owen Van Natta will serve as an Advisor to Playlist.

“John was a pioneer of the MTV revolution that forever changed the music industry landscape by giving fans a whole new way to discover and enjoy music,” said Bob Zangrillo, Chairman of Playlist. “Playlist looks forward to leveraging John’s tremendous track record operating media businesses and deep relationships in the music industry as it builds out the world’s premier social media service.”

“Creating and sharing playlists has become a phenomenon in our culture. With over 43 million registered users, Playlist is the number one site where fans go to discover, share and enjoy their favorite music,” said John Sykes, CEO of Playlist. “Leveraging our newly forged partnerships with the music community, we can now offer consumers deep access to their music and provide the industry with powerful new revenue streams.”

Playlist, one of the fastest growing sites on the Internet, continues to establish partnerships with the entertainment industry in an effort to offer a comprehensive collection of content that can be discovered, shared and monetized at www.playlist.com.

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