Michael Armstrong is a rising star at the entertainment giant Viacom, having expanded the international reach of the company’s BET brand to 14 million households in 54 countries. He also recently launched a new international movie channel showcasing the storied Paramount film library.
Born into an entertainment family in Aurora, Colorado, Armstrong tried consumer products and health care before landing a dream job in account management at MTV Networks (now known as Viacom Media Networks) in Chicago. While at MTV Networks, he earned his Booth MBA, which he says grounded him in “incentive thinking,” the ability to understand the other side’s goals and motivations. He moved to New York in 2002 as vice president of affiliate marketing.
When Viacom’s top brass decided in 2006 to relaunch the international business of BET Networks, they tapped Armstrong as senior vice president and general manager to build the BET brand overseas. To build BET in overseas markets, Armstrong used social media to seek out black artists from the United Kingdom and across Africa who would benefit from television exposure, then created profile shows showcasing their stories and talent. That success set him up for his next challenge: launching the Paramount Channel. The channel’s recent launch in Spain was a big success; now the rest of the world awaits.