BET Networks Names Michael D. Armstrong as New GM

WIE Power 100 - Debra Lee - Publicity - P 2016
Courtesy of Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images

Jeanine Liburd and Donna Blackman also get new executive roles as parent Viacom continues to roll out big changes.

Just a few days after BET's marquee event of the year, the BET Awards, the network on Thursday announced a streamlined leadership — most notably naming Viacom International exec Michael D. Armstrong the new general manager of BET Networks.

Armstrong, based in New York, will report directly to the now Los Angeles-based BET chairman and CEO Debra L. Lee. His move over to the leading cable network for black audiences follows the March exit of programming president and head of originals Stephen Hill. (The network is also still embroiled in a legal issues with another former head of originals, Zola Mashariki, who filed a discrimination suit after her own termination.) The new role will see Armstrong driving strategy and operations, with direct oversight of content strategy, multiplatform scheduling, marketing, corporate communications and operations.

Also moving up in this round of executive shifts are longtime BET Networks staffers Jeanine Liburd and Donna Blackman, who will now serve as chief marketing and communications officer and senior vp business operations, respectively.

“Today’s announcement outlines key changes to our operating structure that further solidify our position as a thriving global brand,” Lee said in a statement. “Michael exemplifies the values of strong, dynamic leadership — and his vast knowledge of our industry and how our audiences connect with content is unmatched. Known for their passion for our business and their strong experience in the industry, Jeanine and Donna have a proven track record of developing dynamic strategies that have accelerated growth, elevated brand awareness for BET and engaged consumers worldwide. These appointments will strengthen our ability to drive growth in ratings and digital metrics, achieve strategic goals and deliver strong financial performance.”

Changes like these have become pretty familiar at Viacom-owned networks. The troubled cable portfolio, which put Bob Bakish in charge of a hopeful turnaround at the end of 2016, has been taking big steps to improve its narrative. BET, in particular, was identified as one of six "core brands" for Viacom as part of CEO Bakish's plan to rejuvenate the media conglomerate.

Earlier on Thursday, BET's corporate sibling, CMT, said goodbye to longtime president Brian Philips and named Frank Tanki the new GM.