Stuart Winchester

Office Christmas Party Starts Strong Behind Critical Praise

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Office Christmas Party is already burning the ho-ho-house down.

Fans love it, with a social media following of nearly 40 million. This early interest led to a tidy opening – it made almost a million dollars last night alone.

Critics love it too. Forbes Scott Mendelson writes, “Office Christmas Party is exactly what it promises, and delivers it in spades. … It is filled to the brim with funny men and women being allowed to be funny in both expected and surprising ways, in a story which respects the inherent drama of its story without drowning in schmaltz. The characters are funny, the situations are funny and the film just plain works.”

It’s easy to see why the consensus is so favorable: a raucous, feel-good holiday flick filled with Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon and more at their very funniest.

Office Christmas Party is just one entry in a strong late-year slate for Paramount, which also includes the acclaimed Arrival and the powerful Allied, and will soon add Martin Scorsese’s Silence (Dec. 23) and Denzel Washington’s reprisal of Fences (Dec. 25), both of which are riding critical praise and awards buzz.

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Trevor Noah to Visit Barack Obama in The White House for Daily Show Interview

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

As President Obama’s second term in office winds down, the appreciations and stock-taking of his legacy have been multiplying. One of the most recent was from our own BET, who saluted the 44th president with BET Presents Love & Happiness: An Obama Celebration last month.

The president will return to our airwaves next week, when he appears on The Daily Show with Trevor NoahThe show, which Noah will tape at the White House will air not only on Comedy Central, but also on MTV and BET. It will be Obama’s eighth appearance on The Daily Show, and his first since Noah began hosting last September.

It’s little surprise that the president would make Noah’s show part of his farewell tour, as the host has been surging behind critical praise during and after the recent election season, with large increases in ratings and digital traffic.

What will Obama and Noah discuss on Monday? Hard to say. But you can check out an extended version of the POTUS’ more memorable past appearances below:

Paramount Secures 23 Critics’ Choice Nominations, Led by Arrival, Fences

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Paramount has stormed theaters this year with a slate of critically acclaimed films, from the cerebral alien invasion flick Arrival to the buoyant Florence Foster Jenkins to the explosively powerful Star Trek Beyond, with Martin Scorsese’s Silence dropping Dec. 23 and a highly anticipated reprisal of August Wilson’s Fences due on Christmas Day. With this sort of high-caliber film drumming regularly from the lot, it is no surprise that, when the Critics’ Choice Awards announced their 2016 nominations this week, Paramount secured a total of 23 nominations.

Arrival leads with 10 nominations, second only to La La Land and tied with Moonlight. Fences follows with six nominations, two for actor and director Denzel Washington. And fully half of the Best Sci-Fi/Horror nominations belong to Paramount, with 10 Cloverfield Lane, Arrival, and Star Trek Beyond all vying for the honors.

Check out all of Paramount’s nominations, as well as a peak at each film, below. The 22nd Critics’ Choice Awards air Sunday, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. on A&E.

Arrival – 10 Nominations

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director (Denis Villeneuve)
  • Best Actress (Amy Adams)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Eric Heisserer)
  • Best Cinematography (Brandon Young)
  • Best Editing (Joe Walker)
  • Best Production Design (Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte, André Valade)
  • Best Score (Jóhann Jóhannsson)
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie

Fences – 6 Nominations

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director (Denzel Washington)
  • Best Actor (Denzel Washington)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (August Wilson)
  • Best Acting Ensemble

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CMT Releases First Nashville Trailer; Date of Sneak Peak

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

We teased Nashville back in September, when CMT released its first teaser of season five and announced a Jan. 5 debut date. The net has not only come back with the first official trailer for the series, but a gift for anxious fans: the first hour of the two-hour season premiere will air on Thursday, Dec. 15 at 9 p.m.

You can get more details on the intrigue and the excitement to expect here. But, really, you should be following @NashvilleCMT on Twitter or Facebook to make sure you get the latest updates as soon as they’re released.

100 Billion Trillion Planets in the Cosmos – Why Do They Keep Coming Here? First Look at Transformers: The Last Knight

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

We see explosions and mayhem across human epochs, from hordes of charging armored knights to Old World plazas festooned with Nazi flags to back-packed youngsters gazing awestruck at aerial wreckage pocking a modern football stadium. We do not see exactly who the humans are fighting, but the narration clues us in: “Two species at war. One flesh. One metal.”

What is certain is that Transformers: The Last Knight is going to transport us to battlefields we have not seen before. We have a long wait to see exactly what’s coming – the movie won’t drop until June 23 of next year – but the teaser trailer gives us an inkling of what director Michael Bay will deliver in the latest installment of the explosive franchise, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel,Laura Haddock, Jerrod Carmichael and Isabela Moner.

This will be Paramount’s fifth Transformers movie, and more are planned, including a Bumblebee spin-off in 2018. Take a look back at the first four below.

Transformers: Age of Extinction – 2014

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Four Viacom Overachievers Make Cablefax List of Young Talent

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Cablefax recently laid out their annual tally of 100 Overachievers Under 30, and four Viacom employees made the list. This is a diverse and capable group. They line up social talent for marketing campaigns. They manage sprawling networks of digital and social channels. They coordinate programming strategies across linear and digital channels. They create custom co-branded campaigns for partners and networks.

And they are just getting started.

While they work across many of our networks and divisions – Epix, CMT, TV Land, and our Velocity in-house agency are all represented – a common thread of their workday seems to be the freedom to pursue creative solutions to novel challenges.

“I love the variety of campaigns I get to work on and the creative freedom I have to make each of them unique,” says Julie Feinerman, social media manager at Epix.

Each of the honorees was “excited,” “surprised,” “thrilled,” or “honored” to make the list, while pointing to the guidance of role models who helped them develop the work ethic and grit to achieve career success.

“My first boss at MTV, Jessica Zalkind, continues to be a mentor and #ladyboss that I admire,” says Lauren Elias, a social talent coordinator for Viacom Velocity. “She taught me that hard work, and going beyond just getting the job done are keys to success.”

In addition to Feinerman and Zalkind, CMT’s Kate Warburton and Velocity’s Brian O’Toole also represent Viacom on the annual Cablefax list. They will be honored at a reception later this month. Scroll down to learn a bit more about each of these Viacom standouts.

Young Viacom talent frequently makes these industry lists, with several, including Elias, making Cynopsis’ Rising Stars roster earlier this year. Cablefax frequently mines the company’s deep talent pool when it sorts out the best in the industry, including its recent lists of top minorities and most powerful women in cable.


Lauren EliasTenure: 4 years

What she does: Discovers, casts, and manages social talent for Velocity projects, integrated marketing campaigns, and more

What she loves most about her job at Viacom: I love discovering new talent that our brand partners and network executive are excited about.

Her reaction when she found out she was named as a Cablefax Overachiever: I was super excited. It was all the more reason to continue working hard toward my career goals.

What she is most looking forward to about the networking reception on Dec. 14: Meeting like-minded colleagues who feel proud about their work.

Can you point to a mentor or role model who helped you achieve success so young? My first boss at MTV, Jessica Zalkind, who continues to be a mentor and #ladyboss that I admire.

What specific advice did they give you that stuck with you? She taught me that hard work, and going beyond just “getting the job done” are keys to success. I also have to thank my current boss, Tom DeNapoli, who always supports me, always trusts me, always champions me, and always teaches me.

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Younger, Workaholics, South Park Up for People’s Choice Awards

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

People’s Choice recently announced the nominees for the 43rd edition of the classic awards show, and four Viacom favorites are on the list. TV Land’s hit original series, Younger is up for favorite cable TV comedy, while Hilary Duff, who plays millennial Kelsey Peters on the show, is nominated as favorite cable TV actress. Comedy Central is represented as well, with Workaholics star Adam Devine up for favorite cable TV actor, and South Park – which is in the midst of a hugely popular 20th season – is up for favorite animated TV show.

Check out a preview of these fan faves below, and click through between now and Dec. 15 to vote. The 2017 People’s Choice Awards will air live from Los Angeles on CBS on Jan. 18, 2017.


YoungerTV Land – Vote for Younger here


Adam Devine – WorkaholicsComedy Central – Vote Adam here

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Nick’s Sarah Landy’s Bottom Line: Helping the Under-Served Find Their Way in Higher Education

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Sarah Landy has had a pretty great career so far.

Straight out of Skidmore College, she interned and assisted at Nickelodeon during the nascent days of the now-iconic Blues Clues, Several divisions and promotions later, she is vice president of preschool production and development, regularly flying out to collaborate with Nick’s animation teams in LA and partnering with production companies in Toronto, Vancouver and Dublin. The smash hit Blaze and the Monster Machines and the upcoming animated Butterbean’s Café are two shows she oversees as executive in charge.

As with any successful career, however, it began somewhere. And Landy traces that somewhere back to a network of counselors, relatives and mentors who supported her from a young age. Her parents set a life framework that all but guaranteed she would attend college. A sequence of advisors led her to choose Skidmore through an immersive college application and selection process. A college professor connected her with Dr. Alice Wilder, one of the head researchers behind Blues Clues and the person who helped Landy score her first internship.

Landy, left, with Alice Wilder, one of the head researchers behind Nickelodeon's hit show, Blues Clues.

Landy, left, with Alice Wilder, one of the head researchers behind Nickelodeon’s hit show, “Blues Clues.” Photo courtesy of Sarah Landy.

“I realize I had a lot of help along the way identifying what would be a good fit, guiding me through the application process, encouraging me to go visit – and I can’t imagine my life without it,” Landy recalls.

Unfortunately, not everyone receives such robust support. So when Bottom Line, an organization that helps low-income first-generation students get into and graduate from college, arrived in New York City from Boston five years ago, Landy knew immediately that she had found her cause.

“I have a passion for students and equal opportunity, and it felt like a really good match,” she said.

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BET Leads With 5 of 10 Viacom Execs Named to Cablefax’s Most Powerful Women in Cable List

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

“You have women in these pages who have made it their mission to lift others up,” wrote Cablefax editor Amy Maclean in their November issue, which was dedicated to the most powerful women in cable. “Women who are pioneering technological innovation. Women who are shrewd negotiators. Women who are speaking up in boardrooms. Who knows… maybe one of the Most powerful Women in Cable will someday be elected to the most powerful office in the land.”

We are proud to note that 10 of those women – and three of the top 50 – work for Viacom. That half of these get-things-done executives come from BET, including CEO Debra Lee, is unsurprising, given that network’s reputation for recruiting women to direct some of its most important programs. Earlier this week, Essence wrote a salute to the outsized impact that black women show runners – including Being Mary Jane’s Erica Shelton Kodish – were having on the television landscape.

BET is hardly alone in celebrating women. CMT, whose senior vice president of operations, Suzanne Norman, made the list, recently launched its annual Next Women of Country to showcase the best new talent in a genre that remains male-dominated. Viacom hosts a resource group open to all employees that is committed to championing women’s interests, and the company regularly partners with organizations such as Safe Horizon and Joyful Heart Foundation that assist women in need and promote women’s rights.

Underscoring the diversity that powers Viacom, many of these women also appeared on Cablefax’s recent list of top minority executives: Lee, BET CMO and marketing executive vice president Vicky Free, and BET programming executive vice president Zola Mashariki. Two other BET executives – Maureen Guthman and Connie Orlando – made the adjacent “Influentials” list.

We congratulate these dedicated women and thank them for their tremendous contributions to Viacom’s ongoing success. Click through below to see why Cablefax chose each of these individuals as industry standouts.

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Viacom Ad Sales’ Greg Cantwell Leads the Stocking Stuffing Assembly Line for Manhattan’s Homeless

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Eleven years ago, Greg Cantwell had an idea.

It was Christmastime. Complaints rained around him, about the commercialization of Christmas, about the excess of presents.

So he asked himself, would anyone really care if he spent half as much on presents and put the other half toward something a little more worthy?

“I couldn’t think of anyone in my life who would care, so I thought, why not just do it?”

But where to put the resources? That wasn’t so hard, as it turned out. He’d been in New York a long time. He knew how difficult conditions were for homeless people, especially around the holidays.

So he and two friends met at his apartment, and they assembled a couple dozen Christmas stockings. They stuffed them with a toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, cookies, gum, candy canes, a McDonald’s gift certificate, a five dollar bill.


Cantwell, right, stuffing an enormous pile of stockings at his Brooklyn apartment with fellow Operation Santa Claus volunteers Carlos Gonzalez and Viacom employee Judi Sadon. Photo courtesy of Operation Santa Claus

Then they threaded their way through Manhattan’s East Village and handed the parcels out to the homeless. They hit Tomkins Square Park and Washington Square Park and Avenue A and anyplace else where they could find someone who could use a little extra.

“We were astonished, the reaction we got from people,” Cantwell, a client planning director for Viacom Ad Sales, recalls. “They were just not expecting it.”

Operation Santa Claus was born.

Cantwell has repeated the effort each year since, generally on the weekend before Christmas. Planning starts a minimum of two months in advance, with a Go Fund Me page and an email blast and social media posts.

As donations accumulate, Cantwell and “Chief Elf” Luisa Alves, who works in Spike’s inventory team, coordinate to determine how many stockings they can afford and what will go in each. A mammoth trip to Costco follows. They fill four or five shopping carts. Cantwell orders the gift cards in bulk from McDonald’s.

On the designated day, Cantwell invites everyone out to his Williamsburg home for a sangria party. A mammoth assembly line snakes through his two-bedroom apartment. Dozens of volunteers drop up to 50 items in each stocking. In 2015, they assembled 250. The goal for 2016 is 300.

It’s a novel project, a flourish of goodwill and selflessness that pushes back against the relentless commercial tide of the holiday season. People have noticed. A few years ago, NBC local news in New York featured Cantwell and Operation Santa Claus in a segment:

Each year, the event grows larger. Each year, Cantwell rouses the volunteers with a speech just before they disperse across the city.

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