After 25 years, Jack Sussman is stepping down as executive vp of specials, music, live events and alternative programming for CBS Entertainment. Sussman, who will leave following the Feb. 4 Grammy Awards, will return to producing, including serving as an executive producer of two tentpole CBS specials, the Tony Awards and the Kennedy Center Honors.
Mackenzie Mitchell has been upped to vp of specials, while Mitch Graham will continue to run unscripted as executive vp of alternative, which he has overseen since 2020. Graham will report to Amy Reisenbach, president of CBS Entertainment, while Mitchell will report to Reisenbach and Bruce Gillmer, president, of music, music talent, programming and events for CBS parent Paramount and chief content officer of music of Paramount +.
“This is a storied department and I know both Mackenzie and Mitch will lead the team with distinction, transparency and positivity,” Reisenbach said in a staff memo obtained by Billboard. “They both launched careers and rose through the ranks at CBS while establishing deep roots in the TV community with limitless passion and creativity for making quality popular television.”
Sussman joined CBS in 1998 following roles at MTV, VH1, CNN and NBC and oversaw a wide variety of specials and yearly awards shows at the network. “I love live television,” he told Billboard in a 2017 profile. “You get one chance at it, and everybody’s got to be going in the same direction, because you are walking a tightrope.”
In an internal email, Sussman wrote to his colleagues, “I’m returning to my roots. I get to close out my career how I started in this business — producing. Working with talented artists and other creative producers has always been the best part of the job and now I will get to do that full time.” In addition to working on the Tonys and Kennedy Center Honors, Sussman says he will be “developing and producing outside passion projects for various platforms and live events along with the pro social and charitable organizations I have connected with throughout my career. A perfect next chapter as I look to slow down a little.”
Sussman has worked on more than 100 specials at CBS and with such artists as Garth Brooks, Bruno Mars, Celine Dion, Adele and Michael Jackson. “I’m so grateful to all the artists, managers, producers, record labels and production teams I’ve worked with along the way,” he wrote. “I had the good fortune early in my run at CBS of being mentored (and yelled at on occasion) by the giants who started the live television event business. I learned so much from them, and only hope I have been able to pass along some of that historical wisdom to this next generation.”
Both Graham and Mitchell have long tenures at CBS. Mitchell began at CBS in 2014 as a temporary assistant and had risen to vp while working on such annual shows as the Grammy Awards, Kennedy Center Honors and Tony Awards, as well as such specials as Garth & Trisha Live! and Adele: One Night Only. Graham started in the publicity department in 1999 and transitioned to the alternative department in 2013. He has worked on such shows as Amazing Race and Survivor. He has overseen the unscripted division since 2020.
“So proud to have watched these individuals and the collective team grow,” wrote Sussman in his memo to CBS staffers. “Mitch Graham is the best Alternative executive in town and Mackenzie Mitchell has grown into an outstanding executive overseeing our music and specials. You will not find two finer humans. The team is in great hands moving forward. They are simply the best, and a big reason this decision is both easier and harder.”
Sussman most recently oversaw CBS’ New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash. The Dec. 31 show averaged 8.31 million viewers, more than doubling its primetime audience in 2022. This made it CBS’s most-watched original entertainment special since the Grammy Awards in February 2023. CBS also scored a ratings win with Jan. 7’s Golden Globes, which averaged 9.47 million viewers in its first year on the network, according to Nielsen.