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Name and title: George Cheeks, executive vice president of business affairs and, along with Andra Shapiro, co-general counsel. He is executive vice president and general counsel of MTV’s music and entertainment groups. Age: 42 Company profile: MTV Networks Co. is a constellation of brands that includes four versions of MTV and three versions of VH1, plus Comedy Central, TV Land, Spike TV, AddictingClips.com, AddictingGames.com and many more. The company’s flagship MTV channel reaches nearly 90 million households in the United States, while its VH1 channel reaches 88 million homes and its county music channel, CMT, reaches nearly 80 million. Hit shows such as The Daily Show with John Stewart and The Colbert Report have kept Comedy Central on a steady upward clip. Nickelodeon is another cornerstone of MTV Networks’ success, with mainstays such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Rugrats and Dora the Explorer. Its Logo channel provides content for gay and lesbian viewers. Internationally, the company licenses, or is a joint venture partner, in about 80 local versions of its networks in Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America. In 2006, MTV bought out its Japanese subsidiary, MTV Japan. It struck a partnership with Chinese search engine Baidu.com in 2006, making music videos and other content available to Chinese consumers. In 2005, MTV Networks acquired online video site iFilm for $49 million, as well as GameTrailers.com, a site featuring video game reviews and related content. It launched MTV Games to produce its own video games in partnership with publisher Midway Games Inc. Adding to its new media portfolio, the company acquired Atom Entertainment Inc. for $200 million and Harmonix Music Systems Inc. (maker of the Guitar Hero video game) for $175 million in 2006. The company struck a deal in 2006 with Google Inc. to distribute video programming from MTV Networks containing ads. The video will be distributed to other Web sites in the Google advertising network. The company, headquartered in New York, is a unit of Viacom Inc. Route to present position: Cheeks was drawn first to show biz. The law came later. “I was involved with acting and theater when I was younger,” he said. “When I went to law school, I married my interests by pursuing entertainment law.” Cheeks took his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1987 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1992. His summer job during his second year of law school was in the entertainment department at the Los Angeles office of Loeb & Loeb. He returned to work there following graduation, leaving in 1994 for Castle Rock Entertainment Inc. In 1996, Cheeks moved to the firm now known as Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren & Richman of Beverly Hills, Calif., and then to Nickelodeon in 1998 as senior counsel. He was named general counsel at MTV in 2003 and executive vice president of the entertainment group in April. “Most of what I have done I learned on the ground and not through law school,” Cheeks said. “Law school taught me the fundamentals of copyright law [and] contract law, but it didn’t do much to prepare me for the unique way deals are done in this business. When law students ask what courses I recommend to prepare for entertainment law, my response is: Take all the normal classes and read Billboard and Variety magazines.” Legal team: Cheeks is responsible for business and legal affairs at the MTVN music and Logo group, MTVN Global Digital Media and MTVN music strategy group. He and Shapiro share responsibility for the music and media licensing group and for employment and labor matters. “On the business side, we put together the deals,” Cheeks said. “We are a content company, so if we are engaging writers, we are engaging talent, if we are securing financing, if in the new digital world we are creating an online portal where we are providing content and someone else is providing the back-end tools, all those deals will flow through my department.” Outside counsel: “If it’s a pure entertainment matter, we tend to use some of the smaller boutique firms in Los Angeles,” Cheeks said. Any “pure corporate matter” might go to New York’s Cravath Swaine & Moore or Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. The latter also helps with intellectual property matters. Daily duties: “There is a strong business strategist part to my job,” Cheeks said. “The lawyer, the business [strategist] and the managerial/executive piece of my job are key components every day.” Cheeks’ career in entertainment law has coincided with the evolution of the Internet from novelty to business bubble to an indispensable, though still maturing, medium. “I was here as a staff attorney at Nickelodeon when the Internet started to impact the business,” Cheeks said. “I saw it at the beginning, when everyone thought it was the next big thing. I’ve watched it transition to a whole new, legitimate platform that is a key component of the growth strategy of every media company.” Entertainment law is evolving to meet the opportunities of the digital age, Cheeks said. “The traditional entertainment paradigms that existed for traditional media don’t necessarily translate to our new digital world,” he said. “The daily challenge is taking what I learned in the traditional media space and figuring out where it works, or doesn’t work, in the new media space. We are an industry that is used to establishing precedents, establishing paradigms and sticking to them. Now all of a sudden we are busting up the model.” Being a good lawyer is just the starting point. “The industry attracts a very diverse group of folks,” he said. “You have to like being around creative people, figuring out solutions to creative problems and navigating the marriage between a for-profit venture and a creative venture.” Personal: “I do yoga; I go to the gym a lot; I see movies a lot. That’s pretty much my life outside the office.” Last book: “I’m more of a magazine reader. I don’t read much fiction or nonfiction. Not enough time. Trade magazines, The Week, The Economist, things like that. I was a political science major in college, so I try to stay abreast of current affairs.” Last movie: Year of the Dog.

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