Viacom Launches Digital Studios at First NewFront, Ramping Up Online & Mobile Content Pipeline

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Laugh with Majah Hype, wake up with Nikki Glaser, cook with Snooki, get animated with JoJo – and do it all on your phone.

Viacom Digital Studios (VDS) is here, poised to deliver hundreds of hours of premium digital content that will transport digital native stars from BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon to the social and mobile platforms where their fans live.

This was the headline of Viacom’s spectacular first NewFront event earlier this week at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers, where the company marched confidently into the digital realm by detailing dozens of new short-form properties to feed its massive online social footprint of more than 850 million fans, elaborating on new content deals with Snap and Twitter, and announcing an expansion of its recently acquired VidCon conference to London this February.

“The launch of Viacom Digital Studios is an amazing opportunity to reimagine our iconic brands for a new generation of young, mobile-first audiences,” said VDS President Kelly Day. “We’re bringing the power and scale of Viacom’s global content engine and storytelling capabilities to entertain and engage our fans whenever and wherever they’re consuming content.”

VDS has been steadily ramping up since Day joined Viacom late last year, jolting year-over-year social video views and minutes viewed in the U.S. upward by 70 (to 4.3 billion) and 78 percent (to 4.7 billion), respectively.

The digital studio is a lynchpin of Viacom CEO Bob Bakish’s revitalization plan, as the company moves deliberately to expand its core television business onto next-generation platforms.

“… if you can think about all the time spent on mobile and all those devices out there, I think you quickly realize what a powerful growth engine that will be for our business,” Bakish told a crowd of investors at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in March.

While Viacom’s digital content will run across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and other channels, the company’s NewFront highlighted new global original content deals with Snap Inc. and Twitter.

The Snap deal is a renewal and expansion of an existing partnership that will include production of new content for Snapchat’s Shows feature and around Viacom’s live events for the app’s Discover page. The partnership with Twitter will also include red-carpet coverage, at BET and MTV tentpoles, as well as four new daily news shows:

  • BET Breaks: The rundown-style show delivers the African-American perspective on pop culture, including breaking music, entertainment, sports news stories and trending topics being discussed on Twitter.
  • Comedy Central’s Creator’s Room: Experience an intimate view of Comedy Central’s Creator’s room as the team offers their real-time hilarious and satirical takes on what is trending in pop culture daily news through a comedic lens.
  • MTV News: MTV News will bring daily reports of what’s trending with fans, tapping into issues that are important through MTV’s unique stance in youth culture.
  • MTV News International: Curated by MTV News editors and presenters, these visually dynamic, global news reports instantly tap into trending current events on Twitter, and include celebrity and fan reactions.

Here is the complete list of new original programming and talent partnerships announced on stage for BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon.

BET

  • The Majah Hype Show (YouTube): A weekly sketch comedy show hosted by comedian and actor Majah Hype and featuring a rotating ensemble cast of fellow comedians. The show will provide viewers with Majah’s comedic take on trending topics and current social commentary in the news, along with hilarious original skits.
  • De’arra and Ken Talent Deal: With over 4.5 million YouTube subscribers, De’arra and Ken of the popular digital series De’arra and Ken 4 Life are a picture-perfect example of #relationshipgoals. The social influencer couple has signed an overall talent deal with BET to perform in and create original shows for BET Digital and bring their magnetic brand of fun to a mobile screen near you.
  • Freestyle Friday (YouTube, Facebook): A revival of the hugely popular Freestyle Friday segment from BET’s hit show 106 & Park. Once a month, leading up to The Hip Hop Awards, aspiring and accomplished emcees will be invited to an open mic session, streamed live on YouTube from their various locations across the globe. The monthly event will be hosted by a resident hip-hop aficionado and have surprise guest appearances from top emcees, deejays, producers and label execs.
  • Rate the Bars (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter): A returning, original music series featuring respected emcees rating lyrics from other artists with unfiltered honesty. The show presents lyrics unattached from their authors, making the ratings of each song truly based on the quality of the bar without bias.

  • Beautycon (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram): Partnership with Beautycon to co-create over 50 beauty tutorials focused on an African-American audience. These videos reimagine the tutorial format with stunning visuals and shareable videos that showcase the latest trends and offer a wide array of beauty-influencer talent.

Comedy Central

  • You Up? With Nikki Glaser (Facebook Watch): A weekly show highlighting celebrity news, spun off from the comedian and television host’s live daily morning show on SiriusXM’s Comedy Central Radio. Nikki, along with her co-host and touring buddy, Tom Thakkar, welcome comedy heavyweights like Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader, Amy Schumer, and Tracy Morgan to overshare about dating and sex, dissect pop culture and news, and poke fun at anyone who deserves it.
  • Comedy Central’s The Creators Program: The inaugural Creators Program will be led by Nate Dern (Funny Or Die, Upright Citizens Brigade), who has been tapped as head of creative. Dern will lead five creators who were hand selected from over 1,000 applicants after a rigorous audition process that kicked off in February through a call for submissions via Comedy Central’s social platforms. These creators all have audience-facing personalities with strong, authentic points of view. They will be writing, producing and starring in a daily reactive series and a weekly scripted series with both living across Comedy Central’s social platforms, most prominently Facebook and YouTube. The inaugural creators are Ryan Beck, Chris Cotton, Hanna Dickinson, Jordan Mendoza and Natasha Vaynblat.
    • Daily Topical Show (title TBA): In this original, daily, pop-culture themed show, the five creators discuss the day’s trending topics from their own various points of view, through a comedic lens.
    • Comedy Central Central: Set inside Comedy Central’s New York headquarters, this weekly workplace scripted series follows the lives of the employees of the No. 1 brand in comedy at Comedy Central Central.
  • Meet Your First Black Girlfriend (YouTube, Facebook): A new series exploring Akilah Hughes’ real life take on dating outside of her race. Her authentic presentation and hilarious sensibility on a culturally relevant experience and perspective will resonate with fans.
  • Between-the-Scenes (Facebook, FB Watch, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter): This ongoing, Emmy Award-winning short-form series features Trevor Noah interacting directly with the audience about topics political, pop-culture, and personal, and has over 150 million cross-platform streams since its launch last year.

  • Hack into Broad City (Facebook, Facebook Watch, YouTube): The popular, critically acclaimed exclusive extension of Broad City eavesdrops on the candid, often outrageous video chat sessions between Abbi and Ilana and keeps viewers engaged between seasons. New episodes of the Emmy-nominated Hack Into Broad City will debut later this year.

MTV

  • Girl Code (Snapchat): Bringing back Girl Code and updating it for the social generation in short-form series featuring both original cast members and up-and-coming comedians who will dispense advice and overshare about what it’s like to grow up and be an adult.
  • Teen Code (YouTube): In the tradition of Girl Code, Teen Code will feature influencers and teens discussing real life issues.
  • Promposal (Snapchat): Promposal follows teens as they pull out all the stops to land their dream dates.
  • Fab or Fad (YouTube): The series dives deep into the latest beauty, fitness and lifestyle trends that are blowing up newsfeeds. Two hosts determine what’s actually fabulous and what’s just a passing fad.
  • MTV Decoded (Facebook, YouTube): MTV Decoded is a weekly series where the fearless Franchesca Ramsey tackles race, pop culture, and other uncomfortable things, in funny and thought-provoking ways.
  • Cribs: Building Cribs as a digital-first vertical across platform, with a focus on food and DIY.
    • Cribs (Snapchat): All the bling comes to Snapchat in this short-form reimagining of the classic MTV show where viewers get sneak peeks of celebrities’ houses. The first season (three episodes), last summer was highest premiere of a Snapchat show ever and will return for a second season with new episodes this summer/fall.
    • Cooking in the Crib with Snooki (YouTube): Expanding the Cribs franchise with everyone’s favorite Jersey girl as she brings a whole new flavor to the kitchen.
  • Yo! MTV Whips (YouTube): Ride shotgun with Nick Cannon as he gets a taste of hip- hop’s most insane automobiles in new series Yo! MTV Whips.
  • Wild Styles (YouTube): Wild ‘N Out introduced the world to freestyle comedy and the art of the wild style. The audience craves more rhymes, more fire and more burns, so MTV is delivering new exclusive battles right to their screens.
  • Remaking the Video (YouTube): Influencers and talent recreate classic music videos.
  • Road to VidCon (YouTube): A multi-part video series premiering in the lead up to this year’s VidCon that documents the journey of a young creator heading to one of the biggest events in his or her life.

Nickelodeon

  • The JoJo & BowBow Show Show (YouTube): A girl’s best friend is so much more in this series of animated shorts starring JoJo and her beloved dog BowBow. In each three- to five-minute animated short, JoJo tells a brand-new story that comically reveals how BowBow is way more than just a furry bestie. The character art leverages the existing art style from JoJo’s popular iMessage stickers. Six episodes are being made at Nickelodeon’s Entertainment Lab in the network’s Burbank headquarters.
  • SlimeZone VR Showdown (YouTube): A new digital series where you can watch the players go into Nickelodeon’s SlimeZone VR game to compete – and get virtually slimed.
  • Nick Trip (YouTube): Fans will follow Jace Norman, star of Henry Danger, as he travels throughout Europe with his brother Xander. It’s Jace’s first time in England, Germany and France, so fans will watch as he gets to see the biggest attractions, gets slimed for the first-time ever, meet fans from around the world and hangs out with his Nick friends, Kira and Jack, stars of The Thundermans.
  • Creator Edge Partnership: Creator’s Edge is a hub for internet creators founded by Jace Norman and Xander Norman. We’re teaming up with the brothers and their group of influencer friends to create original content and a number of exciting new digital shows for Nickelodeon.
  • Super League Gaming Minecraft City Champs (YouTube): This new esports series will follow Minecraft players as they team up to represent their city in a national tournament. From meeting the competitors to crowning the champion, we’ll follow the action and excitement of this multi-week competition.

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