Viacom's TV Executive Upheaval: Who's Got Power Now?

8:00 AM 7/13/2017

by Lesley Goldberg

BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Paramount Network have new leaders under company president and CEO Bob Bakish.

Bob Bakish - 2017 BET Upfront - Getty - H 2017
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

CEO Bob Bakish's plan for Viacom's small-screen expansion is to focus on six core brands: BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Paramount Network. The conglomerate has shaken up the exec suites at five of those networks amid a larger restructuring that has seen a handful of rising executives (Kevin Kay, Chris McCarthy, Keith Cox) take charge of multiple networks.

The latest change came June 29 when CMT president Brian Philips was pushed out following a 16-year run and amid the niche cable network's recent growth on the back of Nashville. Philips' ouster made CMT the latest Viacom cable network to lose its leader, joining MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Spike, with the latter set to be rebranded as the Paramount Network in January.

Here's a look at the new power players on Viacom's TV side with the below all reporting directly to Bakish.

  • Debra Lee

    BET is shuttering its longtime home in Washington, D.C., for New York, while Lee, 62, will relocate to Los Angeles. New GM Michael D. Armstrong (who replaced president Stephen Hill), however, will work from BET's base in the Big Apple.

    BIG TASK Turn BET back into a destination for black viewers.

  • Chris McCarthy

    McCarthy, 41, who has added Logo and VH1 to his portfolio, is MTV's third president in as many years. He has merged MTV's and VH1's development teams, with Nina L. Diaz replacing Michael Klein as head of unscripted, while Maggie Malina remains as head of scripted. Amy Doyle has taken over McCarthy's role as general manager.

    BIG TASK Convince millennials MTV is cool again.

  • Kevin Kay

    Kay, 59, has tightened the executive belt at Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT by splitting oversight between two main executives. Rising star Keith Cox is president of development for TV Land, taking over for Larry Jones, and has added Paramount Network to his purview, replacing Sharon Levy. At CMT, longtime president Brian Philips was pushed out in June, with Frank Tanki absorbing that role on top of his GM duties at TV Land.

    BIG TASK Rebrand and launch a broad-skewing entertainment network in a hypercompetitive landscape.

  • Kent Alterman

    Alterman, 60, who took the reins in 2016, has a new No. 2, with Tanya Giles in for David Bernath as GM. Other high-level execs promoted: Sarah Babineau and Jonas Larsen have been named executive vps development, East and West Coast, respectively.

    BIG TASK Translate digital views into TV ratings.

  • Cyma Zarghami

    In February, Bakish took TV Land and CMT out of Zarghami's Kids and Family Group and moved them to Kay's Global Entertainment Group. Zarghami, 55, absorbed Nickelodeon president Russell Hicks' duties, and now oversees Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Nick Jr., TeenNick and Nicktoons.

    BIG TASK Maintain foothold as a leading destination for kids programming.