Last night, VH1 broke yet another benchmark at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, as RuPaul’s Drag Race won its fifth Emmy this year (after racking up four at the Creative Arts Emmys last week) for the category of Outstanding Reality-Competition Program. Drag Race is now the first show in history to earn an Emmy for best reality series and best reality host in the same year. The awards, like Ru’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, are yet another symbol of the show’s enduring popularity, critical acclaim, and cultural impact.
Fans have embraced Drag Race for its universally accessible message of self-love and acceptance – especially in recent years. The show is a beacon of resistance and hope set against a tense political climate; sprinkling glitter and feathers in the face of bigotry.
In light of RuPaul’s seismic sweep, Vanity Fairfilm critic K. Austin Collins underscored how Drag Race, a diverse, controversial and intimate show, has etched its mark on Hollywood and the entertainment industry:
“On a night that was host to what S.N.L. star and Emmy nominee Kenan Thompson called “the most diverse nominees in Emmy history,” it was only appropriate that one award—for outstanding reality-television program—should push the event beyond the usual questions of race and gender.
RuPaul’s Drag Race—the most culturally influential queer show on television, as well as one of the most consistently racially diverse—tackles all of the above, rambunctiously, complicatedly, and at times controversially, but just as often with love.”
Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish appeared on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street yesterday, joining co-host David Faber from backstage at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference.
“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution,” Bakish said, before detailing the company’s progress ramping up its studio production business, expanding its digital presence, improving affiliate relationships and revenue, and adapting Viacom to an increasingly digital landscape.
“My job is to move Viacom forward, turn it around, evolve it, make sure it’s a vibrant company for the future to benefit our shareholders, our employees and all our partners, that’s job one, that’s what we’re doing,” Bakish said.
Here are a few highlights of the conversation:
“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution”
“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution. And on the turnaround side, we’ve had a lot of progress on distribution, and on the evolution side – which is really where this fits – we’ve announced recently that we’re ramping up our studio production, including on our flagship brands, on MTV and Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, and that’s about getting those brands represented in third-party platforms, so that consumers who might not have a full bundle still has access to these brands, still think of them in their entertainment experience, and by the way, could be promotion to bring people into a bigger bundle.”
Viacom is increasingly Over The Top
“[Philo – which includes Viacom – is] a low price point, entertainment skinny bundle delivered via OTT. … AT&T Watch is essentially that too. There’s no broadcast, there’s no sports in there. It’s all entertainment product. It’s a limited selection, so we think there’s more to come, and in fact in every MVPD cable renewal or extension deal we’ve done in the last year and a half, it includes provision that we’ll be added to any OTT or skinny bundles that they have, so it’s more product to come.”
Delivering an evolution
“From the beginning, back to November of ’16, my focus has, was and continues to be running this company, moving it forward, delivering a turnaround, delivering an evolution. And on the turnaround we’ve got proof points on U.S. distribution, where, by the way, we have sequentially improved our distribution revenue every quarter this fiscal year. We’ll have growth in the fourth quarter, the quarter we’re in right now, and we’ll have growth in 2019. We’ve improved our audience shares. We’ve tremendously turned around Paramount.”
The financial picture improves across Viacom
“We’re focused on putting points on the board. We are. Coming out of the third quarter, I think we started to get some recognition on that. Coming out of our fourth quarter, when we deliver not only sequential improvement in domestic affiliate, but growth in domestic affiliate, I think we’ll get some respect for that. When we talk about the numbers that Paramount’s delivering, I think we’ll get some respect for that. And you don’t know what the catalyst to turn [the stock price is], but we have had a real change in sentiment.”
Viacom evolves into a multi-platform global entertainment company
“The fundamental thing we need to do is shift the narrative. People look at us, and they say, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re a domestic pay TV company,’ and the reality is, that’s wrong. We’re a multi-platform global entertainment company. And that’s why this evolution point, building these new revenue streams, whether it’s studio production, our Advanced Marketing Solutions business, our advanced ad business, which, the strategy is to use that to more than offset any decline on call it the traditional side, that business is growing over thirty percent. You’ll see that business grow, on a percentage basis, accelerate in ’19.”
Earlier in the morning, Bakish also appeared onstage at Communacopia. You can listen to his full question-and-answer session here.
LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 25: Jim Gianopulos speaks onstage during the 2018 CinemaCon – Paramount Pictures special summer presentation held at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 25, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos appeared last week at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2018 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Los Angeles. In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, he elaborated on the multiple levers the studio’s new management team has activated to drive Paramount’s renaissance: tightening synergies with Viacom’s media networks, strengthening relationships with popular streaming services, building out Paramount Television, building up the consumer products business, and more deliberately monetizing the studio’s deep library. And it doesn’t hurt that Paramount is churning out great movies.
The excerpts below portray a studio in the midst of an awesome transformation. Listen to the full interview here.
Paramount is in a renaissance
“About the culture, I think people do feel that Paramount is in a renaissance and they are part of it and they feel engaged in that. We’ve also extended deals that were expiring – new five-year exclusive deal with Hasbro, which brought us across the Transformers properties, but also has properties like Dungeons & Dragons and Micronauts and many other very popular properties and IP that they are very deeply engaged in producing. We extended our deal with J.J. Abrams, who is arguably one of the most talented people in the movie business and the television business, and also extended a new deal with David Ellison to provide some of our biggest tent-poles like Mission: Impossible and now Top Gun and others, and as well as Terminator, a franchise that he owns. So, you add to that Jerry Bruckheimer and others, so I feel really confident that the team that we have on the executive side and the team that we have on the creative and production side externally that we have ongoing relationships with Leo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and others will enable us to continue putting together a great slate.”
Making movies for someone or for everyone
“And I think you’ve heard me say and it’s now a longstanding tradition even when we had at Fox, which is make it for someone or make it for everyone. And that in itself is a principle that has guided us so that even recently where we had films like A Quiet Place, which was a very modestly budgeted, originally a thriller horror movie that broke out and did $340 million and a little movie like Book Club, which was – had a very distinct audience of older women. We bought it for $10 million and it made $70 million. And then, of course, the movie for everyone, which is Mission: Impossible that has now surpassed all the prior films and continues to head toward $775 million or more million dollars worldwide. So, the current slate, we’re very confident in.”
Uniting across Viacom
“…[Viacom CEO] Bob Bakish and [Non-Executive Vice Chair of the Viacom Board of Directors] Shari [Redstone] have been very focused on uniting those elements of the company across all of Viacom. … So, we have films like Nobody’s Fool, which is a Tiffany Haddish movie that’s in concert with BET. Similarly, a film called What Men Want, which is a play on the original What Women Want, one of our films, which will be done again with, with BET. Dora the Explorer live movie, which we’re doing with Nickelodeon, as well as an animated movie we’re doing with them. So we’re harnessing all the value and potential and capabilities of the Viacom labels to drive – both to define our slate in the branded area and also to promote our big tent-pole films as well. What they did, for example, on Mission: Impossible was a massive global campaign putting all the resources of the Viacom brands, and particularly internationally MTV, which is very well-situated, as is all of Viacom and there are 3.8 billion homes.”
Chuck Johnson interned on the VH1 Consumer Marketing team in the fall semester of 2013, and the VH1 Public Relations team in the spring semester of 2014. Currently, he works as a senior social media coordinator at VH1.
Campus to Career: Thanks for speaking with us about your experience as an intern and full-time employee, Chuck. Can you tell us a bit about your background and education?
CJ: I attended North Carolina A&T State University for my bachelor’s degree, and then went to New York University (NYU) for graduate school. I interned at Viacom while studying at NYU, and immediately knew this was exactly the place for me to start my career.
Awesome! Whatdrew you to Viacom?
Growing up, I had always felt so connected to all of Viacom’s brands. Each has impacted me at a different stage of life, and I was so ready to work for a company with that kind of reach.
For me, the entertainment industry – Viacom specifically – embodied the New York City dream. I couldn’t wait to get my foot in the door.
Chuck interned on the VH1 Consumer Marketing team in the fall semester of 2013, and the VH1 Public Relations team in the spring semester of 2014. Currently, he works as a senior social media coordinator at VH1.
The Kevin Costner-led drama, which aired its season finale last week, is now the most-watched series not only in Paramount Network’s brief history, but also in nearly 15-year run of predecessor network Spike TV. Yellowstone reached an average of 5.1 million viewers weekly throughout its nine-episode first season, garnering the largest audience for an ad-supported new cable series since FX’s The People Vs. O.J. Simpson in 2016 and earning a 1.47 rating among the coveted 18-49 demographic. Among ad-supported cable dramas, only The Walking Dead has attracted a larger audience in 2018.
On the digital front,the summer hit from the seven-month-old network mirrored Viacom’s larger success across digital platforms. Season 1 content generated more than 12 million streams across Paramount owned-and-operated platforms and received over 9 million transactions on video-on-demand — the highest consumption for any Paramount Network series in channel history.
The success proves the newcomer network made a smart decision by recruiting big-name talent such as Oscar-nominee Taylor Sheridan — who wrote and directed the series — to drive its premium scripted lineup.
“When we launched, we wanted to build two nights of scripted entertainment,” Paramount Network President Kevin Kay told The Hollywood Reporter. “Now we know Yellowstone can anchor one of them.”
Yellowstone follows the Oscar- and Emmy-winning Costner as John Dutton, owner of a prominent and enormous Western ranch that has been passed down through generations in the Dutton family while he tackles the obstacles of keeping up with his adult children and making sure his land remains safe.
The finale of Yellowstone brought in 5.4 million viewers (L+7) and ranked as the top ad-supported episode of scripted television since April. The series accounted for 9 of the 10 largest audiences on ad-supported cable this summer (excluding news and sports). Season 2 production is already in the works with a debut set for 2019. Filming will take place in Utah and Montana, with Costner returning in his lead role.