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.
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 26: (L-R) Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Gegard Mousasi, Scott Coker, James Rushton, Rory MacDonald, Wanderlei Silva and Lyoto Machida attend the Bellator-DAZN announcement press conference on June 26, 2018 at Viacom in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Bellator MMA)
In recent months, Bellator MMA has crisscrossed the globe, hosting fights for its international fan base in such diverse locations as London (Bellator 200), California (199), Budapest (196) and Israel (188), among others.
Now, the Viacom-owned global combat sports franchise is queueing up fight cards for a totally new destination – online, via a nine-figure deal with international live sports streamer DAZN.
The streaming deal plants an important digital component into Viacom’s ever-expanding live-events business while expanding Bellator’s global footprint and injecting the league with the additional financial resources it needs to expand its roster.
Noting that Bellator had become a “significant revenue generator” since Viacom acquired the property eight years ago, Viacom CFO Wade Davis underscored the importance of live events to the company’s growth strategy.
“Viacom has led the industry in creating iconic, fan-centered events through MTV’s VMAs, the BET Experience that happened in L.A. last weekend, the CMT Music Awards, and Comedy Central’s Clusterfest,” Davis said, speaking at a press conference at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters announcing the DAZN partnership. “Nobody does live events the way we do, with the combination of a focus on brand, talent and sponsors, all expressed across multiple platforms.”
Bellator intends to invest at least some of the proceeds from this streaming agreement into its roster, enhancing the live experience with a dynamic group of fighters.
“This deal will allow the roster to continue to expand, and an expanded roster means bigger fights,” Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT President Kevin Kay said at the press conference. “It means we’ll be able to give our best fighters more opportunities to do what they do best. So more fights that the fans want to see. Everybody wins.”
While MMA fans in 162 countries can already view Bellator events through local television partners, this streaming agreement will add a popular online platform to the mix. DAZN has spent several years steadily building itself into an online destination for sports fans in Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan. With the Bellator deal – and a recent agreement that granted DAZN U.S. streaming rights to the World Boxing Super Series – the streamer is set to enter the United States in September. DAZN will also soon expand into Italy.
“On DAZN’s worldwide platform, our fights will be seen live for the first time to new audiences around the globe,” said Bellator President Scott Coker.
Under the agreement, Perform Group-owned DAZN will exclusively stream seven annual fight cards, and will simulcast another 15 that air on Paramount Network. All fights will stream in all DAZN markets.
“It’s simple; fans want to see great fighters in competitive fights so we’ve handed the keys to Scott Coker and his venerable team to go out and recruit even more top-level talent to further stack Bellator fight cards and build on their success,” said DAZN CEO James Rushton. “With the combination of this investment and our recent announcement to bring more than 30 nights of boxing to the platform annually, DAZN will be a must-have for fight fans in the U.S.”
American Woman premiered June 7 on Paramount Network. Pictured [L to R]: Mena Suvari, Cheyenne Jackson, Alicia Silverstone, Jennifer Bartels.
American Womanpremiered on Paramount Network earlier this month, delivering viewers into a meticulously recreated 1970s Los Angeles, where emerging women’s empowerment clashed with the stubborn and smothering traditions of an old-guard patriarchy.
The series, starring Alicia Silverstone as a bold divorcée who struggles to raise two daughters after dumping her cheating husband, resonated immediately, drawing in more than one million viewers and establishing itself as the year’s highest-rated half-hour scripted series on cable in the key women’s 18-49 and 25-54 demographics. It was also the top social comedy series on Thursday night (per Nielsen).
That American Woman debuted to stellar reviews didn’t hurt. Silverstone especially has been a critical favorite.
“Plain and simple, Silverstone is perfect casting here, and she is great in this role,” wrote Decider’s Lea Palmieri. “She nails the humor, she looks fantastic, and she delivers the intended message and that go-getter attitude in her signature, captivating style. It’s enjoyable to see this woman in particular portray another woman who is as determined to start a new life as she once was to help a classmate become cool.”
Working alongside co-stars Mena Suvari and Jennifer Bartels, Silverstone struggles through a 1970s world that, in its musical score, its publicly abrasive treatment of women, its clothes and its cars, is as convincing as it is alien to an observer from 2018.
“The success of a period piece like American Woman, which deals with an era that at least some of its audience will have known in person, depends greatly on the quality of the atmosphere it creates,” writes MediaPost’s Adam Buckman, who counts himself among those who experienced the 1970s IRL. “This show gets an A+ in this department, including wardrobe, locations, cars and interior décor.”
Jen Bartels [L], who will play a role in Paramount Network’s forthcoming American Woman, and Kelsey Asbille, who will appear in the channel’s Yellowstone, joined Viacom employees in New York City for the company’s annual Viacommunity Day.
For the past 22 years, Viacom’s annual worldwide Viacommunity Day has given back to those in need. On Friday, April 20, thousands of employees across Viacom and its brands once again volunteered to make a difference in communities around the world, from supporting L.A.’s homeless to organizing gun-safety projects in Florida to restoring outdated facilities in New York City.
Joining the Viacom employees for one project at their Times Square headquarters was talent from Paramount Network’s forthcoming originals: Jen Bartels of American Woman (premiering June 7) and Kelsey Asbille of Yellowstone (June 20). The pair sat down with the other volunteers to decorate bags that students at Free Arts NYC can use to carry home the art they create in the program.
“Thank you to Viacom for introducing me to Free Arts NYC. It’s really important for the youth to have access to arts in their daily lives. I definitely want to get involved in their mentorship programs.” – Kelsey Asbille (Paramount Network’s Yellowstone)
Free Arts NYC is important in New York City, where one in three public schools lacks an art room. The program partners with schools in these communities to “create access to the arts and exposure to creative careers” for students. They do this by offering free art days for students and families as well as art parties and free museum days.
Bartels shared that she was, “really proud to be a part of a community like Viacom that takes time out to support others, especially our youth. Sharing our creativity to brighten the lives of the children of Free Arts NYC was extremely fun and fulfilling.”
Behind a premium content strategy anchored in original scripted series such as Waco and hit unscripted programs inherited from Spike, Paramount Network wrapped up its first month with strong ratings driven partly by surging female viewership. Ratings for the net checked in with a 50 percent primetime leap over its previous quarter (as Spike) in the key 18-49 demo.
Especially notable was the soaring viewership among women 18-49: an overall jump of 44 percent punctuated by a 274 percent eruption around the six-part Waco miniseries.
As Waco wraps up, Paramount Network continues to roll out its long-term slate of premium content, including the forthcoming Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner.
And this time, the elite Heathers are not three white girls with long hair and thin legs rocking color coordinated twin sets. Heather M. is black, Heath is gender-fluid and their vicious ringleader Heather C. is a plus-sized, body-positive badass.
Ratings and viewership soared 93 percent over Spike’s previous quarter in Paramount Network’s first full week, led by holdovers Lip Sync Battleand Ink Master, and supercharged by original series Waco, which hit as the highest-rated drama series on ad-supported cable in nearly half a year. When Lip Sync Battle: Live Michael Jackson Celebration ushered the network to life on Jan. 18, the program ruled its basic cable timeslot, topped social media for the night, and drew an additional 4 million YouTube views.
The following week, Paramount Network President Kevin Kay joined Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and the stars of Waco to introduce the net’s dramatic six-part retelling of the 1993 federal government siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Texas.
Viacom and Paramount Network executives joined talent for the six-part Waco miniseries to ring the opening bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange in New York City on Jan. 23, 2018.
“Working with the biggest Hollywood talent in front of and behind the camera, our mission is to create big and bold content that honors the history of Paramount Pictures’ 100 year-plus legacy of great storytelling,” Kay said just before a shower of confetti erupted along with the stock market’s opening bell. “I truly believe that we are living in the golden age of television right now, and the time is right to capitalize on this moment when the appetite for powerful storytelling and high-quality cinematic production has never been greater.”
Watch Waco’s gripping open, with Taylor Kitsch playing cult leader David Koresh, to see what Kay means by powerful storytelling and high-quality cinematic production:
The series has drawn praise for its acting, its balanced portrayal of both sides of the infamous standoff, and its unvarnished look at the consequences of America’s firearms obsession. Mostly, critics have been pleased with the show’s high quality.
“No sooner did the Spike network change its name to Paramount than the quality of the network’s content suddenly shot upwards,” wrote Adam Buckman in MediaPost.
Which was exactly the point of Viacom’s deliberate evolution of one network into the next. With critical reaction positive and powerful Waco complements hitting Paramount Network’s lineup over the next several months – a Heathersreboot, American Womanwith Alicia Silverstone, Yellowstonestarring Kevin Costner – ratings should remain strong.
While those series gestate, there are five more installments of Waco to come. Here’s what to expect in the weeks ahead:
Paramount Network launches tonight with a special edition of smash hit Lip Sync Battle, propelling Viacom into the premium content universe and building on the century-long storytelling tradition of fellow Viacom property Paramount Pictures.
The launch marks an important business milestone for Viacom, fulfilling a key pillar of CEO Bob Bakish’s strategic plan and cracking open potential for new marketing and advertising partnerships behind a star-studded slate that blends the best of the retiring Spike network with high-quality scripted programming.
Paramount Network completes CEO Bob Bakish’s flagship six strategy
The Paramount Network launch culminates a monumental yearlong effort to reorient Viacom under CEO Bob Bakish, consolidating resources under the company’s most iconic brands. The focus around six flagships – Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Paramount Network – is a strategy Bakish had successfully implemented in his decade-long run as head of Viacom International Media Networks.
“There’s no better way to better encapsulate Viacom’s strategy change under Bob Bakish than to look at the creation and launch of the Paramount Network,” notes TBI Vision.
Paramount Network launches Viacom into the premium content game, with big stars and great stories
Paramount Network’s premium scripted content will launch Jan. 22, when Waco, co-starring Michael Shannon and Taylor Kitsch, debuts. Yellowstonestarring Kevin Costner, American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, and a re-imagining of the 80s classic Heatherswill follow later this year.
“The audience has an expectation that there are going to be big names, big stars, great storytelling, great characters, and I think that’s what we have to focus on,” Paramount Network President Kevin Kay told Variety.
Paramount Network opens up tremendous partnership opportunities
The combination of captivating content, huge talent and high production generates enormous interest not just from fans, but also from advertising, distribution and creative partners who want to do business with Viacom.
“All the groups together went out and presented to both the movie studios, to our agency clients, and then to our distributors as well,” recalled Kay when asked how partners have been processing the rebrand. “People understood why we are rebranding Spike as Paramount Network, they’re excited to work with us, and the biggest thing I think that came both on the distribution side and on the ad-sales side was that clients said, ‘we want to be your partners.’”
The best of Spike is coming along
When the tribute to the King of Pop ticks to life tonight, the long-running Spike network will cease to be in the United States, gifting to Paramount Network its top unscripted programs – Ink Master, Bar Rescue, and Lip Sync Battle – plus Bellator MMA.
This mix of legacy unscripted programming establishes the net’s impressive versatility and provides a stable complement to Paramount Network’s still-evolving scripted slate.
“We’ve got scripted dramas, non-scripted in a big premium way, we’ve got scripted comedies, we’ve got docuseries, and we’ve got Mixed Martial Arts,” Kay told Deadline. “If you look around at the broadcast networks, that’s not a bad model to me. On the broadcast networks, you’ve got drama nights, you’ve got comedy nights, you’ve got sports nights. You’ve got a lot of variety for different viewers across a very broad audience. I feel that’s where we want to be.”
Nobodies will also migrate to Paramount Network, from Viacom’s TV Land. There are more original concepts in development, including sketch comedy series Browntown in collaboration with leading Latino-focused digital media brand mitú.
Paramount Network builds on Paramount Picture’s century-long legacy
Paramount Network takes its name from the rich DNA of Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, the 105-year-old Hollywood icon whose deep catalogue houses some of the most memorable films ever made, including Titanic, Forrest Gump, and the Godfather films. While Paramount Network and Paramount Pictures will operate separately, their relationship will mirror that of other Viacom properties under Bakish, in which the brands collaborate with the movie studio to maximize the reach of intellectual property.
“There’s a real big need, and there’s a want, a desire, for us all to work together really closely, to both exploit [Paramount Pictures’] library and then to help promote the movies, and then to potentially create some great programs for Paramount Network,” Kay explained.
Paramount Pictures also owns the Paramount Television production studio, which tripled its revenue in 2017 through a steady stream of high-quality content, including the Netflix sensation 13 Reasons Why, Epix’s Berlin Station, and Shooter on USA.
“There is incredible demand for high-quality television content and the reality is, there are not that many places that you can get it,” Bakish said at the at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in December, underscoring the importance of Paramount Television.
The Paramount name resonates globally – Viacom offers a network called Paramount Channel in select markets outside of the United States. According to Bakish, it is the largest ad-supported movie channel in the world.
They’re crawling out of The Mist: the terror, the monsters, the tragic characters of Stephen King’s imagination. It is the classic tale of small-town Maine meets nightmare dimension adapted from King’s 1980 novella, but painted over the rich canvas of a 10-part Spike miniseries.
When it debuts in June, the series will expand considerably on the setting and characters of King’s original work, allowing a deeper exploration of its themes of good and evil, human nature and morality – all with the author’s blessing. As The Boston Globe’s Isaac Feldberg wrote, “… when an e-mail to King himself, outlining ideas for how to adapt The Mist into a series, was met with emphatic support and one requirement — don’t do anything ordinary — everyone working on the series grew more keen to flesh out the world beyond the novella, bringing in fresh ideas and unfamiliar characters.”
The basic premise follows King’s script: citizens of fictional Bridgeville, Maine find themselves marooned indoors (in this case, a shopping mall and a church), when the mist rolls in. A few outdoor stragglers are rapidly devoured by the fog’s embedded demons.
“Soon it becomes clear that whatever is in the mist is not natural, and if you go out there, you will die,” saidThe Mist creator and showrunner Christian Torpe.
What lies inside may not be much better, as the terrified and panicked hostages begin to turn on one another. The first trailer delivers a horrifying preview of this wrecked world:
With its small-town setting, there is a presumed familiarity between characters even before the fog, and The Mist picks up on and develops these rich relationships – and how they evolve or devolve in the savagery of the mystery fog – as a primary plot catalyst.
“We had a rule in the writers’ room that if you ever needed the mist to move the story forward you were in trouble, because we wanted the story to be propelled by the characters, and their reactions to the mist — not the mist itself,” Torpe told The Boston Globe.
For Eve Copeland, the mist, “… brings some stuff out in Eve that makes her willing to do whatever she needs to do,” said Alyssa Sutherland, whose character’s uneven personal history has made her wildly protective of her daughter, a survivor of sexual assault:
Eve is just one character of many – with 10 episodes, the series leaves ample room for rich development. As the small town cast flows through a vast interconnected matrix of intensifying carnage, how each person reacts reveals an enormous amount about them and about humanity.
“People’s true natures start to come out,” said Darren Pettie, who plays sheriff Connor Heisel on the show. Pettie is one of many cast members who speak to the show’s revealing portrayal of human nature in this Entering The Mist featurette:
The Paramount Network will launch in the first quarter of 2018, adding a premium entertainment channel to Viacom’s portfolio and executing a core component of the company’s strategic shift under new CEO Bob Bakish. The new net will carry the very best of Spike TV – which Paramount Network will replace – along with high-quality scripted series that will appeal to a broad and diverse audience.
“Our mission is to establish Paramount Network as a prime destination for premium storytelling,” said Kevin Kay, president of Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT. “From Alicia Silverstone as a trailblazing independent working mother in the 1970s to Michael Shannon as an FBI negotiator during the Branch Davidians dramatic standoff and siege, Paramount Network will be the home to compelling stories, unforgettable characters, and high quality production with a distinctive global appeal.”
We have three-quarters of a year until the new property drops onto the airwaves, and a lot more details will emerge between now and then, but here are three things we know right now about Paramount Network:
1) Paramount Network will be a destination for premium storytelling
The Paramount Network’s launch date announcement itemized an impressive roster of scripted series that will roll out in the channel’s first quarter.
Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari will star in American Woman, a 1970s drama about family and independence in a feminism-infused landscape. Heathers creates comedy anthology out of the 1988 film of the same name. Waco will transport us back to the standoff at the Branch Davidian compound with an entirely fresh perspective. And I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. is the latest in the acclaimed “I Am” documentary series from filmmaker Derik Murray.
While the already-announced slate is impressive, the possibilities for future franchises are enormous, particularly given the net’s relationship with Paramount Pictures. “Paramount Network is going to support and develop with Paramount,” Kay told The Hollywood Reporter (THR) in a wide-ranging interview. “Whether we make prequels or sequels to franchises that are Paramount movies or we develop our own stuff that becomes Paramount features, the same thing goes for Comedy Central and MTV — they’re in the movie business with Paramount.”
Kay hopes to establish a pipeline that supports eight premium scripted shows in any given year. “That’s a big number in this world we live in today and Viacom seems very willing to support that and help us build to that,” he said.
2) Your favorite Spike stuff isn’t going anywhere
Spike has become a destination for premium unscripted programming, with the full-throttle feel-good Lip Sync Battle joining longstanding network staples Bar Rescueand Ink Master, and all three will migrate to Paramount Network.
Spike, with its deep HD penetration and web of global outposts, was the ideal Viacom property to evolve into the Paramount Network. And, as Kay told THR, while Spike tended to still be viewed as a men’s channel, the iconic Paramount brand carried enormous gravity among fans.
“There is nothing negative in the consumer’s mind about the Paramount name,” Kay told THR. “Older people know The Godfather; some remember the Sherry Lansing years. Younger people know Transformers and Mission Impossible. Those are the franchises they identify with the Paramount name. I think it has a tremendous amount of value and sets a really high bar about premium in the consumer’s mind and it’s up to us not to screw that up.”