GMC exec takes key role at soon-to-launch cable network

Aspire, the Magic Johnson-backed cable network set to launch in June, has named Paul Butler as its general manager.

Based in Atlanta, Butler will oversee all operations for the African-American themed network and report to Johnson, Aspire’s chairman and a member of its board of directors.

Butler has been senior veep and general counsel at GMC, a network of family-friendly programming that has been handling operations for Aspire since the network was announced in February. He will continue to fill both roles during his transition to Aspire.

“We conducted an extensive search for the right person to lead Aspire and found that he was right here all along, and already on the GMC team,” Johnson said. “Paul has a long track record of success with GMC with a wide range of responsibility and oversight.

“With his background and the fact that he was heavily involved in GMC’s tremendous growth, I think Paul will hit it the ground running to ensure a successful launch and a great future for the network.”

GMC, which is partnering with Johnson and Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa on Aspire, launched in October 2004, barely six months after it had raised funding. Previously an exec at Viacom, Butler joined GMC in 2006 as business affairs and development veep and was promoted in 2009.

As a member of GMC’s exec committee, Butler has worked to help guide and implement strategy for the network.

“I have worked closely with Paul for six years,” GMC prexy and CEO Charley Humbard said, “and in that time he has thoroughly impressed me with his leadership skills, forward-thinking and ability to develop creative solutions to critical issues. There is no question that Paul is an ideal choice to lead Aspire to great heights.”

Aspire plans to target toward African-American viewers with original and acquired programming that includes movies, documentaries, short films, music, comedy, visual and performing arts and faith and inspirational programs.

Comcast has committed to carrying Aspire across its systems, as part of fulfilling its pledge during merger negotiations with NBC Universal to add 10 indie outlets over the next eight years.

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