“Viacom Is A Story of Turnaround and Evolution” – CEO Bakish Tells CNBC

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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.

Paramount Pictures CEO Jim Gianopulos Details Studio’s “Renaissance”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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.”

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Viacom Boosts Digital Presence, Showcases Classic Content as NickSplat Launches on VRV

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Nickelodeon’s canon runs deep: AAAHH!!! Real Monsters, All That, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, CatDog, Clarissa Explains It All, Doug, Kenan & Kel, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Rocko’s Modern Life, The Angry Beavers and The Wild Thornberrys.

Beginning today, these and many other Nick favorites – nearly 30 altogether – are available on NickSplat, an over-the-top destination served up a la carte or as part of the VRV platform. The channel, with its treasure chest of classic Nick shows, serves as both the latest evidence of Viacom’s deliberate move into the digital arena and an affirmation of its brands’ enormous reserves of intellectual property.

“Viacom’s content – including our deep library of genre-defining television – is highly in demand, and our audiences are always looking for new and innovative ways to enjoy our programming,” said Viacom Executive Vice President of Distribution and Business Development Partnerships Sam Cooper. “We’re committed to finding the best partners to bring our individual brands direct to the consumer, and this relationship with VRV is an exciting step forward in our strategy.”

The NickSplat launch over VRV builds on a series of recent moves to widen Viacom’s content footprint within the digital universe, both via the company’s own channels and over third-party platforms. In June, Nickelodeon announced that it would produce two seasons of Pinky Malinky for Netflix, while MTV would revive Real World, Daria, Aeon Flux and other classic shows for as-yet-to-be-announced platforms. Awesomeness, which Viacom recently acquired and folded under its Viacom Digital Studios umbrella, has a strong track record of third-party production, evidenced most recently by To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, which debuted earlier this month on Netflix.

This studio model complements a general ramping up of premium content production throughout the Viacom ecosystem, from the explosive growth of Viacom Digital Studios to the consolidation of its global network into Viacom International Studios to the zero-to-$400-million-in-projected-annual-revenues ascendance of Paramount Television.

VRV is the premiere launch partner for NickSplat, and Viacom will curate content for the channel throughout the partnership. The $9.99-per-month service joins a roster of 12 channels – including Crunchyroll, Funimation, Rooster Teeth, Shudder and more – along with exclusive series such as HarmonQuest, Killjoys, Thundercats and Gary and His Demons.

Awesomeness’ Netflix Romcom Showcases Viacom’s Digital, Premium Content Strategies

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

It’s a worst-nightmare-come-to-life scenario for teenage Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor): five fawning secret love letters disappear from her room and turn up in the mailboxes of her five crushes. The mortified scribe soon finds herself in an elaborate tap-dancing deception involving her sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh (Israel Broussard), and her school’s resident superhunk Peter (Noah Centineo).

This is the setup for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, an Awesomeness Films production based upon the Jenny Han novel of the same name and currently airing on Netflix. The wellreviewed romantic comedy is the first that the studio has released since joining Viacom and the latest in a long line of movies Awesomeness Films has produced for digital platforms, including last summer’s You Get Me on Netflix.

The film’s release over a popular streaming platform affirms the strategic importance of last month’s acquisition, as Awesomeness’ production capabilities and relationships with third-party platforms fuel Viacom’s mission to amplify its digital presence and significantly boost its volume of premium content production.

Wrapped under the Viacom Digital Studios (VDS) umbrella, Awesomeness’ output – which also includes a TV division that produces series such as Hulu’s All Night  and forthcoming Light as a Feather, as well as YouTube Premium’s Foursome – bolsters an already-surging unit that drove 7 billion digital streams last quarter and significantly grew year-over-year video views (+112 percent) and watch time (+104 percent). VDS, which is still in its nascent phases, has an additional 600 hours of new, original digital content in the pipeline.

“The [Awesomeness] team brings strong digital expertise, deep connections with top talent and influencers, and a robust branded content studio and creative agency that will accelerate the growth and scale of Viacom Digital Studios,” VDS President (and Awesomeness alum) Kelly Day said when the deal was announced.

To All the Boys also debuts at a time when Viacom is significantly ramping up its productions for third-party platforms, both through Paramount Pictures’ Paramount Television production unit and a studio model that mines the company’s deep content vault and translates that intellectual property into new programming. Paramount Television expects to bring in more than $400 million in fiscal 2018 on the back of hits such as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and Amazon’s Jack Ryan, while Nickelodeon is producing Pinky Malinky for Netflix and MTV revives fan-favorites The Real World, Daria, Made and others. The newly formed Viacom International Studios has established a powerful generator of Spanish- and Portuguese-language content, with shows for Netflix, Amazon, Telemundo, Fox and others.

Viacom’s Q3 2018 Earnings Demonstrate Turnaround, Evolution Into Global Multi-Platform Entertainment Company

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom released its third quarter 2018 financial results today, articulating progress on its turnaround and detailing Viacom’s evolution beyond its linear roots and into a global multiplatform company.

“Viacom produced another quarter of strong progress, with clear evidence that our turnaround is delivering results and that our evolution into a truly global, multiplatform, brand- and IP-driven entertainment company is well underway,” said Viacom President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish.

Viacom’s core media networks business continues to increase share, Paramount Pictures is surging and profitable, domestic affiliate revenues are up sequentially, and new initiatives are helping to build ad sales strength. Even as these traditional business drivers stabilize, Viacom continues to transform itself by feeding booming digital consumption, growing its Advanced Marketing Solutions (AMS) portfolio, increasing its number of live events, and establishing a burgeoning cross-portfolio studio model that opens significant opportunities for third-party production.

A RESURGENT BUSINESS

Over the past several quarters, Viacom has revitalized four core elements of its business – Paramount Pictures, media networks’ audience share, ad sales, and its domestic affiliate business – while continuing to strengthen its balance sheet and improve its credit rating.

“This improvement in operating performance – combined with meaningful actions over the past 18 months to de-lever our balance sheet – have resulted in a stronger credit profile to help support Viacom’s return to long-term sustainable growth,” said Bakish. “We remain focused on building this momentum with an even stronger September quarter as we continue to position Viacom for the future.”

Here’s a look at how Viacom’s core business elements demonstrated a resurgence in the latest quarter:

Paramount Pictures continues profitability on theatrical hits, television production strength

Paramount’s new management team kicked off their slate with a pair of hits: A Quiet Place brought in $188 million domestically (and another $144 million internationally), on a $20 million budget, while Book Club, acquired for $10 million, raked in $68 million. After growing operating income for six consecutive quarters, Paramount Pictures reached profitability over the past two, with domestic revenue surging 58 percent year-over-year (YOY) in Q3. This trend is expected to continue during the fourth quarter on the strength of the well-reviewed Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which has earned more than $330 million globally – a record open for the franchise – since its July 27 debut.

The studio’s Paramount Television production arm continued to show strong growth, and is aiming for $400 million in revenues for fiscal 2018 behind licensing income from acclaimed series such as the second season of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and The Alienist, which earned six Emmy nominations.

With deepened and expanded distribution deals, affiliate revenue is headed back toward growth

As Viacom has renewed or closed major affiliate renewals, the company has often broadened the agreements’ scope to include advanced advertising and co-production elements. Viacom has also captured new distribution, returning in full to Charter and Suddenlink and establishing carriage on vMVPD bundles, such as AT&T Watch. Domestic affiliate revenue has improved sequentially throughout fiscal 2018, and Viacom anticipates growth of one percent in the fourth quarter.

Viacom’s flagship media networks continue to grow audience share behind ratings strength

For the fifth consecutive quarter, Viacom’s flagship brands achieved YOY share growth as a unit. MTV is the fastest-growing network in primetime among the top 50 cable and broadcast channels in its target demo of adults 18 to 34, and the network has recorded YOY primetime ratings gains for four consecutive quarters. Combined, VH1 and MTV own nine of the quarter’s top 10 unscripted cable series. BET (up 23 percent in live-plus same day ratings among adults 18 to 49), and Comedy Central (recording its largest YOY primetime quarterly ratings gain since 2014), also delivered strong quarters.

Viacom’s move into premium content with the Paramount Network also showed momentum, with Western drama Yellowstone compiling an average of approximately 4.4 million live-plus-three-day viewers, good for the year’s most-watched scripted cable series after The Walking Dead.

Advertising Sales are gaining momentum behind Viacom’s Advanced Marketing Solutions portfolio

Strengthened brands and Viacom’s AMS portfolio – which includes branded content, advanced advertising technologies, and experiential offerings – helped drive the company’s best Upfront pricing in five years. AMS revenue grew 33 percent for the quarter, driving projections of a $300 million haul for the year and a return to growth for ad sales in fiscal 2019. Fox is also licensing Viacom’s ad-targeting Vantage product, an additional incremental revenue stream that validates AMS’ sophistication and value.  

EVOLVING INTO A MULTI-PLATFORM, GLOBAL, BRAND- AND IP-DRIVEN ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY

As Viacom transforms elements of its core business, the company has also been evolving to thrive in a digital and mobile landscape. Here’s a closer look at the three key initiatives – expanding the digital footprint, establishing a broader studio production business, and growing live events and adjacent businesses – that are driving the company’s evolution:

Digital consumption explodes under the Viacom Digital Studios umbrella

Behind the fast-growing Viacom Digital Studios, Viacom tripled its total digital streams since Q3 2016 to approximately 7 billion in this quarter, while recording YOY jumps in video views and watch time of 112 and 104 percent, respectively. The acquisition of Gen Z-focused digital video producer Awesomeness should further drive Viacom’s momentum in this space.

Viacom is building a cross-portfolio studio production operation that is aiming to be a $1 billion global, episodic content production business by 2020

From its launch in 2013, Paramount Television grew into a $400 million business, and Viacom is now expanding this studio production model across its portfolio. With deep vaults of intellectual property to feed the insatiable global demand for content, Viacom’s brands are ideally situated to feed this pipeline: Nickelodeon has already forged a deal to produce two seasons of Pinky Malinky for Netflix, while MTV Studios will leverage assets like The Real World, Daria, Made and others from its enormous and largely untapped youth-focused IP library. More deals are on the way, and other Viacom brands will soon launch their own studio models. Meanwhile, the newly formed Viacom International Studios is already producing Spanish- and Portuguese-language shows for Netflix, Amazon, Telemundo, Fox and others.

Live events attendance is becoming a substantial business driver

Demonstrating the power of its brands to transcend screens and translate across a variety of experiences, Viacom drew millions of fans to 65 branded live events – including Comedy Central Clusterfest, the BET Experience and Viacom’s first Vidcon – in the first three quarters of fiscal 2018. At the cross-section of live events and digital platforms, Bellator inked a nine-figure, multi-year distribution deal with global sports streaming service DAZN that will double Bellator’s revenue and make the organization profitable. Live events helped Viacom drive ancillary domestic revenues up 31 percent YOY during the quarter, to $93 million.

Viacom will wrap up its fourth quarter and full fiscal year in September. To see what Viacom will debut in the months ahead, scroll through the timeline below, or click here to view the full-screen version.




Paramount’s “Crown Jewel” Mission: Impossible – Fallout Rides Rave Reviews to Record Opening

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Like Ethan Hunt prevailing in a helicopter chase through a mountain obstacle course, Mission: Impossible – Fallout won the weekend box office with a franchise-record $61.5 million debut in the U.S. and Canada. An additional 36 international markets added $92 million, bringing the well-reviewed sixth installment of Paramount Pictures’ action institution to a $153.5 million worldwide total – also a record – in its opening weekend.

Featuring a dazzling array of HALO-jumping, motorcycle-crashing, bathroom-smashing stunts in a round-the-world freefall of unrelenting action, the sixth entry in the Mission: Impossible series drew raving critical reaction from its first premiere earlier this month. Fans of the series clearly noticed, chasing the action into theaters.

“The Mission: Impossible franchise is a crown jewel for Paramount Pictures,” box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Variety. “There is a long track record that shows that they can rely on Cruise and his creative partners to deliver time after time. As long as Cruise can keep delivering the goods, Mission: Impossible is an annuity that will keep paying dividends for both Cruise and Paramount for years to come.”

Viacom Gets All Kinds of Awesomeness

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

AwesomenessTV Holdings, LLC (aka Awesomeness), a media company and leading digital-first destination for original programming, has established an unparalleled connection to GenZ – that coveted up-and-coming cohort born along with the tech revolution of the mid-1990s. Fed by strong relationships with top digital talent and influencers, Awesomeness has accumulated 6.4 million YouTube subscribers and another 158 million subscribers on its Awesomeness Network, becoming the premiere digital media network for the most digitally savvy cohort in history.

And now Viacom is acquiring Awesomeness, which will live under Viacom Digital Studios (VDS) and play an important role in Viacom’s robust and growing premium content production ecosystem, drive additional growth at VDS, and strengthen Viacom’s established digital and social relationships and dominance in youth culture.

“Awesomeness has done an incredible job building their brand into a digital media powerhouse for today’s most sought-after and hard-to-reach youth audiences,” said Kelly Day, President of Viacom Digital Studios and former Chief Business Officer of Awesomeness. “The team brings strong digital expertise, deep connections with top talent and influencers, and a robust branded content studio and creative agency that will accelerate the growth and scale of Viacom Digital Studios.”

Andie is on a mission to shake her stigma with the help of her three best friends in “Foursome,” which airs on YouTube Premium. Starring Jenn McAllister, Rickey Thompson and more.

Viacom is already a top player in youth culture, having curated strong audience connections with kids via Nickelodeon and young adults via MTV. The addition of Awesomeness’ young teen fan base further strengthens this broad demographic reach, while Awesomeness’ strong existing relationships with digital platforms, talent and influencers complements VDS’ existing efforts to reach these GenZ consumers on the mobile, social and digital platforms they call home.

While VDS has been growing briskly – more than tripling digital streams since 2016 and doubling YouTube subscribers over the past year, as total social views and watch time soared by 112 and 104 percent, respectively – Awesomeness’ dedicated sales force, branded content studio, and existing relationships with brands such as Hollister, Gatorade and Invisalign will further drive VDS’ growth and profitability. Awesomeness’ expertise across digital programming and distribution, production, talent management and audience development will also help fill out VDS’ still-growing staff.

With distribution deals with major SVOD players and its own Emmy-winning, youth-focused studios that have produced 200 hours of long-form television and feature film content, Awesomeness’ proven content development and production abilities are an especially good fit for Viacom, which has moved deliberately to ramp up its capabilities in this area recently: consolidating several operations across the Americas into Viacom International Studios to service global markets; moving to a studio model under which Nickelodeon, MTV and other brands will license and produce shows based on intellectual property for third-party platforms; and building Paramount Pictures’ Paramount Television production arm from scratch into a $400-million-and-growing annual business.

During an all-night, lock-in graduation party, a group of new grads will do whatever it takes to make their remaining high school dreams come true in “All Night,” which airs on Hulu. Starring Jenn McAllister, Eva Gutowski, Teala Dunn, Jake Short, Brec Bassinger and more.

Awesomeness alumni have already been helping to power Viacom’s transformation in this increasingly digital and mobile age: VDS President Kelly Day, VDS Executive Vice President of Talent and Development Paula Kaplan, and Paramount Players President Brian Robbins – who co-founded Awesomeness in 2012 with Joe Davola – each joined Viacom directly from Awesomeness, a testament to that entity’s penchant for producing top-grade talent.

Nick to Open Its Largest Indoor Theme Park in Mall of China

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

An artist’s impression of the Nickelodeon theme park that will open in the massive Mall of China.

SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, the PAW Patrol gang, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are teaming up for a new adventure: Nick’s iconic crew is headed for Chongqing, China, where they will headline attractions at the largest indoor Nickelodeon theme park in the world.

The 28,000-square-meter entertainment zone, which will live at the heart of the massive Mall of China complex when it opens in 2020, is a vital part of Viacom’s global efforts to seed its popular brands across a range of live events and experiences.

“Creating immersive on-the-ground consumer experiences remains an important part of our business. As we continue to grow the footprint of Nickelodeon theme parks, I am confident this will also open up new opportunities for the Nickelodeon brand and for our partners across multiple platforms in this important Chinese market,” said Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) Managing Director of Asia Pacific Mark Whitehead.

The park – which VIMN will co-develop with the Mall of China, Jiayuan Group, China Creation Group and Triple Five Group – will showcase 14 Nick properties across 29 attractions, including Asia’s first tilting drop tower and the TMNT launch coaster, which will be the highest, fastest and longest indoor rollercoaster in the world.

Nickelodeon and Viacom’s deep vault of intellectual property translates seamlessly from the screen to a variety of in-person experiences, as Nick’s global network of Nickelodeon-themed branded attractions and parks demonstrates. The Chongqing theme park will join Nickelodeon Universe in Minneapolis’ Mall of America, SeaWorld on the Gold Coast and Wet n Wild Sydney in Australia, Nickelodeon Land at Pleasure Beach Blackpool in the UK, Nickland at Movie Park Germany, Nickelodeon Land at Parque de Atracciones Madrid, and Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon at Sunway Lagoon in Malaysia. Nickelodeon attractions also appear at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida and Hollywood, California.

“This is testament to the power of Nickelodeon and our iconic characters that fans, kids and families have come to love, which in turn, enables our ability to further boost the Nickelodeon entertainment experience for them,” said VIMN Senior Vice President of Location Based Experiences Gerald Raines.

Critics Call Mission: Impossible – Fallout “The Most Entertaining Blockbuster of the Summer”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Through five previous films over two decades, Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible franchise has raked in a total of nearly $2.8 billion, providing a reliable tent pole for the studio and cementing Tom Cruise’s status as one of today’s greatest action heroes.

Now, the sixth installment, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is hurtling toward a July 27 release, and the initial critical reaction indicates that a resurgent Paramount has put together one of the boldest and most exhilarating films of the summer.

“Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible Fallout is as relentless and intense an action movie as you’ve seen since [2015’s] Mad Max: Fury Road,” writes Forbes Scott Mendelson. “The action sequences, character confrontations and plot turns pile on-top of each other from beginning to end, with barely moment to breathe in between.”

This sentiment is echoed in one review after the next, with Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson noting that “… [Fallout] just may be the best blockbuster of the summer,” and Lewis Knight writing in Mirror that, “It’s hard to imagine how the franchise can top this terrific action romp, but then again we did say that last time.”

Indeed, it was this originality six films in that struck many critics.

“At this point in Hollywood’s franchise-fatigue cycle, it’s rare to see a sequel (nevermind a fifth one) one-upping itself,” writes Chris Nashawaty in Entertainment Weekly. “Fallout is a unique exception that defies our seen-it-all cynicism. It’s the kind of pure, straight-no-chaser pop fun that not only keeps taking your breath away over and over again, it restores your occasionally shaky faith in summer blockbusters.”

What Fallout does share with its five prequels is relentless and elaborate action scenes, pinned to stunning backdrops and choreographed with a heart-pounding realism. Cruise engages in a helicopter chase over the Himalayas, leaps out of a plane through a lightning storm, transforms the streets of Paris into a high-speed motorcycle obstacle course, and gets caught in what may be the greatest fight scene in the history of bathrooms:

Fallout features more astounding set pieces than can be found in the rest of 2018’s summer crop combined, all of which escalate with such mounting electricity that it’s hard to catch one’s breath,” writes Nick Schager The Daily Beast. “In terms of providing a pure adrenalized rush, almost no contemporaries are in its league.”

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Bakish: Today’s Viacom, Focused on Execution, Delivering Progress

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

On Tuesday, Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish sat down with Activision Blizzard Studios Co-President Stacey Sher for a panel moderated by Fortune’s Andrew Nusca at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech Conference in Aspen, Colorado. The topic was “the future of entertainment,” and Bakish delivered a broad overview of how Viacom not only fit into that future, but was actively shaping it with a focused strategy, an invigorated leadership team, and a series of initiatives to broaden and modernize its business.

Here are a few highlights from Bakish’s remarks, emphasizing how Viacom is repositioning itself to thrive as an independent company within a rapidly changing and consolidating industry. You can watch the full remarks below.

Step 1: have a plan

“I was given the opportunity to run Viacom roughly a year and a half ago. I’m a big believer in you have to have a plan. … We rolled out a plan. Plan had number of elements to it, probably central to it, which will relate to our conversation, was this notion of flagship brands. That had to do with prioritization and true multi-platform expression. … The other thing was you need to have a killer management team. It’s another place where the company hadn’t changed much. Made significant changes on the network side of the business, really completely overhauled the Paramount team from the top down, and then we got to work executing. If you look at what’s happened in the quarters since, I describe Viacom as not a light switch, but a story of incremental progress against a destination.”

Step 2: execute

“If you look at our U.S. networks and audience share, you’ll see that we’ve consistently grown audience share. You look at a brand like MTV, which had a ratings decline in the ten percent for five years running. Now, five quarters in, we’ve consistently grown ratings every quarter. That’s a function of a different strategy and a different team and focusing on execution.”

As competition grows, Viacom benefits by building upon its content production expertise – and profiting off this competition by producing their content

Again, with what we call the tech companies coming in, do you have some incremental competition? Yes, you do. But at the same time you have a series of demand that needs to be filmed. Take Paramount Television, which is the television production side of Paramount. It didn’t exist four years ago. Today, or this fiscal year, it’ll do $400 million of revenue and it’s producing hits. It’s producing hits like 13 Reasons Why for Netflix, like The Alienist for the Turner networks, like the upcoming Jack Ryan series for Amazon, which will drop at the end of August. There’s fantastic opportunity to feed that ecosystem. At the same time, we look at our IP that we’re developing in house and we do think about, “Is this better as a linear network show on an owned and operated network, i.e., I don’t know, Nickelodeon, or is it better as a studio production, branded studio production for a third-party platform?”

Continue to drive growth through great content – both with new ideas and iconic IP

… we are mining franchises. Part of it is, sure, we’re creating new product that didn’t exist before. If you look at Paramount as an example, you have a film like A Quiet Place. Different idea, great characters in it, great storytelling, great execution, including focusing on how much it cost to make, and a great result. You also have a film like Mission: Impossible, which premiered in Paris last week, will open in the U.S. in two weeks. It is really an extraordinary film. … Yesterday, we announced that we’re taking the Rugrats franchise. It’s probably a franchise most of you have heard about. Nickelodeon franchise. We’re bringing that back in a new iteration, both for feature film and for episodic video, i.e. television, and we’ll do a whole bunch of digital native stuff. It no doubt will show up in our experiential space as it comes to life. It’s really mining those opportunities, pursuing some different business models, but making sure consumers have access and using that combination to ultimately drive growth, which is at the end of the day what I’m focused on, which is making Viacom once again grow.

Embrace technology to drive growth

At the same time, we’re using an extraordinary amount of technology in the, I’ll call it, monetization space. For example, when you look at advertising sales or what we’ve historically called advertising sales, Viacom is at the forefront of data-driven advertising in television. … Starting a year and a half ago, in every affiliate renewal we did, and we’ve renewed or extended well over half the sub-base in the U.S. by now, we incorporated the provision for dynamic ad insertion. We’re now able to insert dynamically in 90 percent of [video-on-demand] homes in the U.S. and in the two largest cable operators in the U.S. in a portion of the national avails.

Operate at (the appropriate) scale

[In answer to a question from Fortune’s Adam Lashinksky: The conventional wisdom is that Netflix, Apple, Amazon, are spending billions and billions of dollars, and therefore you and others your size can’t compete. Do you think that conventional wisdom is wrong? If so, why or how?]: “Yeah, I think it is wrong. The reason I’ll say that is it’s overly simplistic. Because if you think of scale, which is at the root of a lot of these arguments, there’s plenty of examples of scale where there’s actually no value to the combination. We see that today in some assets that own both media assets and distribution, but there isn’t really a lot of crossover. Look, I’d say is there scale or is there relevant scale. The other thing is, and I learned this because I ran our business outside the U.S. for 10 years … Those are places where we had a one percent share, so we didn’t have scale. We had to figure out how could we act like we had more scale? Those were doing things like partnering and creating ad sales, houses, and the like. That’s creating virtual scale. In a world where, yes, people are spending extraordinary amounts of money … By the way, we spent about five billion dollars on content, so we’re not exactly irrelevant in that regard, and we have relationships with leading creatives in front of the screen, behind the screen, in feature film, in episodic television, and, yes, in digital native. … I think there is an opportunity to be more nimble in this regard and not be vertically integrate and, frankly, serve a lot of different demand.

In an unpredictable, changing landscape, the only thing you can do is execute

[Answering the moderator’s question of whether Viacom would be independent a year from now]: “Who knows what the future will bring? My guess is, yes, we will be independent a year from now. We’re certainly executing in that regard. We definitely have the full support of our board. We’re talking about a number of interesting ideas, both organic and inorganic, but we’ll just have to see how the whole ecosystem plays out.”