Drink, Dance, Donate: How Viacom Gave Back and Got Down for the 8th Year in a Row

“Everyone on the left side of the room say, ‘Give back,’” shouted Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, addressing a constellation of nearly 200 Viacom employees and nonprofit partners, all gathered in the White Box at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters one evening in early December.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish rallies the crowd at Give Back & Get Down VIII during his opening statements. Photo by Emil Cohen.

“Give back,” the crowd roared.

“Now everybody on the right side of the room say, “Get down!’”

“Get down!’”

After this rhapsodic rallying cry, Bakish began his opening remarks for our eighth annual gala of goodwill: Give Back & Get Down.

“Every year, Give Back and Get Down reminds us to celebrate the qualities that embody the Viacom spirit: empathy and engagement for the communities in which we serve,” said Bakish, applauding our Office of Global Inclusion (OGI), Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Corporate Social Responsibility (Viacommunity) department for their concerted efforts in organizing such a festive and fruitful event.

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CMT Celebrates 2017 With a Milestone: 53 Weeks of Consecutive Growth

Combining network transformation and honoring tradition, CMT broke records this year with 53 weeks of consecutive growth. It’s the longest active growth streak in cable (among all ad-supported cable channels).

How did CMT achieve this landmark?

The network remained true to its mission statement, fueling its status as the leading authority on country music and lifestyle by re-branding the network to become more than just a music channel, but an entertainment hub for modern country culture.

The new creative filter beckoned a programming renaissance, with hit shows and specials including Nashville and the limited run series Sun Records, while fan-favorite series like Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Making the Team were re-energized and attracted new fans.

CMT re-examined its signature music events and specials with fresh eyes. With the seminal series CMT Crossroads which pairs a country act with a pop artist, the network focused on more diverse and current pairings like Maren Morris and Alicia Keys, Thomas Rhett and Nick Jonas, and Florida Georgia Line and Backstreet Boys, which scored the highest “Crossroads” ratings in 5 years.

Fresh off a pair of Grammy-nominations, Kesha is joined by Old Crow Medicine Show for a newly interrupted version of her smash hit Your Love Is My Drug:

Given the hurricanes and shootings in Las Vegas, the annual CMT Artists of the Year special was evolved from a celebration of the year’s top artists to a night of hope and healing. Fans responded…the critically acclaimed special notched the event’s highest ratings ever. And with the CMT Music Awards, CMT successfully expanded the event from one-night event into a three-day festival for sponsors and fans. The events dominated downtown Nashville with multiple sponsor activations, music performances, and fan experiences… creating the largest footprint in CMT history.

The growth isn’t just limited to television. This year, CMT’s ramped up social strategy bolstered its reach to be “everywhere fans are.”  It’s working: in the past year, CMT’s Facebook fans have increased by 3,000 percent.

While the brand continues to expand, its commitment to its fans has never wavered. In the last few months alone, CMT expanded the “Empowering Education” campaign encouraging our fans to pursue higher education and was proudly the first cable network to sign-up for the “Hand in Hand” telethon benefiting hurricane victims.

The last 53 months of growth coincided with subtle yet impactful changes on CMT: introducing more culturally-relevant content to the network, and spreading such content across a range of platforms.

“We discovered that more than ever country fans cannot be put into one box. They connect with smart content which reflects their diverse identities.”

– Frank Tanki, CMT and TV Land General Manger

Network executives chose this course after careful reflection: What does it mean to be a diehard country music fan in 2017?

It means being socially-conscious.

It means having a diverse taste in music—with Carrie Underwood and Beyoncé on the same Spotify playlist.

It means being open to progressive dialogue and content.

CMT fans are diverse in age, race, ethnicity, class and nationality.

“We discovered that more than ever country fans cannot be put into one box,” said Frank Tanki, CMT and TV Land General Manger. “They connect with smart content which reflects their diverse identities.”

And many are millennials, equally appreciative of the historical significance of the genre, jamming to CMT playlists on their iPhones and attending live concerts to enjoy today’s current stars.

“As we connect with more millennials,” said Tanki, “We realize that country fans are younger and increasingly diverse. To remain the authority on country, we adopted a more progressive and inclusive point of view. And to stay culturally relevant, we began reflecting what was happening in culture right now.  And we’ll continue to challenge ourselves to keep reinventing our brand.”

The network made a decision to let go of some older shows that no longer fit the brand mission, but this was accompanied by introducing new shows—original scripted programming or saving proven hits like the endearing fan-favorite Nashville. The “Nashie” fan-base has generated record-breaking numbers for CMT, and Nashville remains the network’s highest-rated and most-watched show in CMT history. These new fans stayed, and ratings soared.

The network is commemorating this phenomenal ratings growth by doing what it does best: connecting artists with fans.

On Thursday, Dec. 14 CMT unveiled its annual LISTEN UP list of 18 emerging artists (18 for 2018) that the network will support and amplify across all platforms, digital and linear, for the next year.

LISTEN UP spotlights talent, giving fans a deeper look at the careers of these potential country superstars through featured promotion of their new music and videos.

“CMT’s ratings trajectory is further proof that our new mission of embracing and redefining modern country culture is working,” said Tanki. “Music is our brand cornerstone and key to our growth. Franchises like LISTEN UP allow us to join forces with new artists at the forefront of evolving the genre and give them a massive megaphone to reach countless new fans.”

Since 2011, the franchise has helped spawn the careers of fledgling stars including Brett Eldredge, Cole Swindell, Dustin Lynch, Jon Pardi, Kacey Musgraves, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, and RaeLynn. Last year’s class alone, included breakout stars Carly Pearce, Luke Combs and Midland.

This year’s “18 for 2018” LISTEN UP artists are Abby AndersonAshley McBrydeBailey BryanCale DoddsDelta RaeDevin DawsonJillian JacquelineJimmie AllenJordan DavisKassi AshtonLevonMaggie RoseMorgan EvansMorgan WallenRussell DickersonRyan KinderThe Sisterhood Band and Tyler Rich.

This year’s “18 for 2018” LISTEN UP artists. Photo courtesy of CMT.

“LISTEN UP taps into CMT’s influence and platforms to guide fans to talented emerging artists that might not yet be on their radars,” said CMT’s senior vice president of music strategy and talent, Leslie Fram. “This lineup represents the diversity within country music – from traditional to modern country, mixed with a little bit of soul. We look forward to sharing their passion and great music with our audience all year long.”

Viacom applauds CMT staff and stars for this colossal achievement. We’re proud to have CMT as part of the Viacom family, and look forward to what the maverick network will produce in the New Year.

Take a look at the upcoming slate of new programming for 2018, including Music City from the creator and executive producer of The Hills and Laguna Beach (premiering March 1). In many ways, it’s the real life Nashville.

Watch the trailer:


Follow CMT on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for the latest news. Visit CMT.com for more shows and updates.

Viacom Scores Golden Globe Nominations for “Downsizing,” “13 Reasons Why”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Video created by Viacom Catalyst

Downsizing doesn’t hit theaters until Dec. 22, but the Alexander Payne-directed fantasy about a resource-starved future, in which citizens shrink themselves to conserve resources, is already creating enough buzz to earn a Golden Globe nomination.

Hong Chau earned a spot on the list of contenders in the Best Supporting Actress category, becoming just the third person of East Asian decent to earn that distinction since 1970, according to EW.com.

“This is the type of character who’s always in the background,” Chau told EW about the significance of her prominent role in the film. “I hope filmmakers will go back and take a look at people whom they thought they couldn’t mine drama or entertainment from. There are a lot of characters that have been underdeveloped because people aren’t interested or are afraid of attempting to tell their stories.”

On the television side, Viacom scored an additional nomination, for the Paramount Television-produced Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Katherine Langford, who plays the tragic Hannah Baker – a high-schooler driven to suicide by the behavior of her fellow students on the hit series – is a finalist in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama category.

Paramount Television, which is a division of the Paramount Pictures Hollywood film studio and is behind hits such as USA Networks’ Shooter and Epix’s Berlin Station, is an increasingly important part of Viacom’s business. On the company’s fourth-quarter and full-year earnings call on Nov. 16, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish noted that the studio had tripled revenues in just the last year alone and has an aggressive slate planned for 2018.

Seth Meyers will host the 2018 Golden Globes, which will air live on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Jan. 7, 2018, broadcast from the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton.

Viacom’s 2017 Employee Halloween Costume Contest Winner Lina Henriquez, aka La Calvera Oscura, On Her Culturally Inspired Look

Congratulations to Lina Henriquez, our 2017 Viacom Employee Halloween Costume Contest winner. By day, Henriquez works in our Core Services department as the executive receptionist, greeting visitors and directing incoming calls.

By night, she’s a holy ghost, the grand dame of death, a Mexican folk saint. Well, at least on Halloween.

Henriquez was inspired to honor Mexico’s saint La Calavera Oscura after a recent trip to the country.

Below, Henriquez explains the meaning behind her costume, how much effort (and makeup) went into creating the stunning, authentic look, and how she celebrated the spookiest night of the year.

Lina Henriquez is the 2017 Viacom Employee Halloween Costume Contest winner. Photo courtesy of Henriquez.

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Viacom Scores Five 2018 Critics’ Choice Nominations

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Congratulations to Viacom’s TV Land, MTV, VH1 and Paramount Pictures, each of which scored at least one nomination for the 2018 Critics’ Choice Awards.

A Manhattan striver who shaves 15 years off her age to advance her career, a raw look at the often shaky lives of teenage mothers, the greatest drag spectacle on television, and a what-if world where humankind shrinks itself to spare the planet’s resources – here’s a closer look at the properties that earned Viacom five nominations:

Best Actress in a Comedy Series – Sutton Foster, Younger – TV Land

Best Unstructured Reality Series – Teen Mom – MTV

Best Reality Competition Series – RuPaul’s Drag Race – VH1

Best Reality Show Host – RuPaul, RuPaul’s Drag Race – VH1

Best Supporting Actress – Hong Chau, Downsizing – Paramount Pictures

The Critics’ Choice Awards will air Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 on The CW Network.