Viacom has spent years finding better ways to match advertisements with audience. Last March, the company was a founding member of the OpenAP advanced audience platform. Its 2017 renewals with Charter and Altice USA included advanced advertising components. And CEO Bob Bakish has consistently emphasized the importance of continuing to develop these capabilities.
“….on the advanced advertising space, Viacom is clearly the market leader,” Bakish said at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in December. “…So I think that is a very exciting road ahead.”
Indeed. Especially since Viacom has now signed a multi-year agreement with Comcast that will further boost its advanced advertising and data capabilities.
The mutual advantages are clear. Viacom has a nationwide reach and deep advanced advertising expertise. Comcast, through anonymized data mined from set-top boxes in subscribers homes, knows who is watching which shows and can match that audience to ads using powerful tools developed through its FreeWheel unit. Together, they can better monetize ad inventory across premium video-on-demand and linear content.
“Today’s announcement reflects Viacom’s commitment to developing more expansive relationships with our distributors,” said Viacom Executive Vice President and Chief Data Officer Kern Schireson. “This new partnership with Comcast and FreeWheel builds on Viacom’s connections with valuable, diverse audiences and Comcast’s reach and data leadership, to create an advanced advertising platform with scale and sophistication. Marketers increasingly demand the ability to reach the right customers at the right time in a premium, trusted environment, and this transformative partnership furthers our ability to unlock greater value for our brand partners and accelerate the future of television advertising.”
“Viacom and FreeWheel have a shared goal of enhancing the value of the entire TV ecosystem,” said FreeWheel Executive Vice President and General Manager David Clark. “To do so, we believe in a shared vision of a TV and premium video unification roadmap that will accelerate the integration of TV’s broad reach and quality content with advanced cross-platform targeting, measurement and optimization capabilities.”
NBCU, which is a part of Comcast, also aligned with the OpenAP consortium last week.
Today, thousands of employees across Viacom and its brands pause from their work week and join together to make a difference in our communities around the world. Viacommunity Day 2018, now in its 22nd year, puts the full weight of the company behind social causes through volunteerism led in partnership with non-profit and civic advocates.
With employees in 25 countries participating, it’s a truly global tradition, underscored by this year’s theme of All Good All Around.
To celebrate Viacommunity Day, employees will take part in a wide variety of charitable activities, from educating young people and providing professional legal guidance to beautifying public spaces and assisting those in need, among other acts of giving. Viacom and its partners have organized more than 125 projects worldwide.
“Viacommunity Day brings out the very best of our organization to help better the communities where we live and work, and to make a positive impact for the many audiences we serve,” said Viacom President and CEO, Bob Bakish. “It’s one of my favorite Viacom traditions – one that I look forward to every year – and it embodies the values that define our culture in a truly meaningful way.”
To get updates about Viacommunity Day 2018, follow #ViacommunityDay on Twitter and Instagram.
Here are some examples of Viacommunity Day projects occurring across the company this year:
Fresh off a successful launch for the Paramount Network, Viacom’s portfolio of adult channels (Paramount Network plus CMT and TV Land), just wrapped the quarter with strong ratings growth – in some cases, the highest in several years, making an essential contribution to the company’s ongoing transformation.
CMT secured its 16th consecutive month of year-over-year ratings growth. TV Land stamped out its best ratings month in more than four years. And Paramount Network debuted its premium content to enormous ratings gains over its predecessor network.
“As we look at how Viacom is performing domestically, there have [been] huge properties and huge networks, and I don’t see that changing,” Frank Tanki, who acts as general manager for CMT and TV Land, recently told Broadcasting & Cable. “We’ve got a lot of support from a lot of the Viacom management team, so I feel good about our future.”
Paramount Network – originals are connecting with new viewers
Driven by the success of the critically-acclaimed scripted event series Waco and anchored by returning hits Lip Sync Battle, Ink Master and Bar Rescue, Paramount Network’s original series are up 94 percent versus a year ago, with significant increases in both live and delayed viewing versus the prior quarter.
“Our goal this quarter was to introduce the channel to new viewers and begin to establish it as the home for premium scripted series,” said Kevin Kay, president of Paramount Network, CMT and TV Land, in a recent email to staff.
Paramount Network’s lineup of premium, high-quality series really gets moving this summer with the launch of several highly anticipated new series, including the sweeping epic drama Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner and written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (Wind River, Sicario, Hell or High Water) on June 20 and American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari launching June 7. Later this summer, the dark comedy Heathers and Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, from producer, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, will debut. Carter’s most recent project for the network, TIME: The Kalief Browder Story, garnered a prestigious Peabody Award.
CMT – connecting with fans onscreen and off
Driving the ratings growth at CMT is a pivot toward the unscripted fare that its core fans react to so strongly (like most Viacom networks, CMT has drastically reoriented itself since CEO Bob Bakish took the helm in late 2016). Country music remains front and center, with music series and specials including, CMT Crossroads, and Hot 20 Countdown garnering their highest ratings in several years, while CMT Artists of the Year, nabbed its highest ratings ever.
The network tapped The Hills and Laguna Beach creator Adam DiVello for Music City, which documents five scrape-your-way-to-the-top strivers trying to insert themselves into Nashville’s music scene. CMT has a new slate of unscripted originals that will begin rolling out this year, including fan-favorite Wife Swap. With the hugely popular scripted hit Nashvillewrapping up its sixth and final season in July, this unscripted slate provides a clear path forward for CMT.
“So these are the kinds of ideas that I think make more financial sense for a network,” Kay told Adweek. “If you pick the right properties, you don’t have to be spending millions and millions of dollars an episode to bring an audience to a channel.”
With steady ratings growth anchoring the core television business, CMT’s leadership has begun exploring more ways that they can sync with Viacom’s company-wide focus on growing its live events business (all six of Viacom’s flagship networks – BET, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, Paramount Network, and Comedy Central – will host live events this year). Last year’s CMT Music Awards rippled out into a three-day festival in downtown Nashville, and the net plans to expand its CMT on Tour and CMT Next Women of Country Tour.
“There’s so much opportunity in the space,” Kay told Adweek. “We should be in the CMT festival business, [to] which we’re getting very close.”
TV Land – modern pop culture classic series is appealing to more viewers
TV Land’s mix of beloved modern pop culture classic series is connecting with fans. Driven by the strong performance of Roseanne, Mom, King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond, the net ranked as the 15th highest-rated channel on all of ad-supported cable in March.
With momentum building toward the new seasons of Youngerand Teacherson June 5, TV Land is likely to continue its tremendous momentum over the summer.
“TV Land is just a great workhorse, and I think that there is still growth for our two originals, Younger and Teachers,” Tanki told Broadcasting & Cable. “Younger this past summer is coming off its highest season ever, which in a multi-season franchise is really exciting. Teachers is another really hysterical series that we want to get out there. So for TV Land, it’s a little bit of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
When lunchtime arrived at the Jamaica orphanage, a knife-wielding worker snatched a chicken from the yard and lopped its head off, shocking the cluster of California volunteers who had stopped off at this hilltop enclave en route to Kingston from Ocho Rios.
Erin Jordan was shocked.
“That’s what they do before they get to the grocery store,” the man said. “I don’t understand why ya’ll don’t get that. But this will be the best chicken you’ll ever have.”
They roasted it over coals on the side of the road. “And you know what?” Jordan said. “It was the best chicken I ever had.”
Jordan is a manager on Paramount Picture’s corporate social responsibility team, a board member of the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, and a veteran of volunteer efforts all over the world, from the inner cities of New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Phoenix to the favelas climbing Brazilian hillsides. It is these volunteer efforts, she says, that frame her life perspective and ground her sense of place in the world.
“Most of us have so much, and you don’t realize it until you meet people or communities who don’t have that,” Jordan says. “And if I have the time or resources to spare, I’m willing to do that.”
Erin Jordan on a 2002 mission to Bahia, Brazil, to deliver supplies to those in need.
Spreading the Lot’s Influence Beyond the Gates
Like all Viacom brands, Paramount Pictures throws its full weight behind the company’s annual Viacommunity Day (which is coming up this Friday, April 20), when thousands of employees turn their energies over to good causes all over the world.
But long before the trees are planted and the meals are served, the prep begins. For Paramount, that starts with Jordan and the rest of the studio’s corporate social responsibility team. For Viacommunity Day, the small but highly effective team coordinates up to a dozen sites around Los Angeles and supports the international teams as they develop projects. They wrangle supplies and secure permits, and organize an on-site petting zoo and a wrap party, which last year featured Keith Urban joining Paramount staff for game night.
The city-wide events disperse 600 to 800 volunteers around Los Angeles, but once the party raps up and Keith Urban goes home, the studio’s social responsibility team continues their year-round focus on education, HIV/AIDS, and sustainability through Paramount’s Green Team.
They don’t have to travel far. Santa Monica Boulevard Charter sits right across the street from the Paramount lot, in a neighborhood designated a White House Promise Zone under President Barack Obama, and it is a beneficiary of the studio’s Kindergarten to Cap & Gown mentoring program. Jordan helps organize one-to-one student-mentor literacy matches that stretch through most of the school year and in some cases across many years, following the students to junior high.
These immersive long-term engagements can profoundly impact both student and mentor. “When you have more frequent contact with a student as part of an overall plan, I feel that they see you want the best for them and you’re concerned with their success,” Jordan says. “That I can actually do that and call that my job is awesome.”
Classroom reading, kindergarten yoga, dance classes, science labs and playground games – all organized by Jordan and attended by Paramount volunteers on Viacommunity Day – further fuse these powerful student-mentor relationships with the studio’s neighbor.
Building a Better Place to Live
Los Angeles, with its 4 million people sprawled over a vast basin between mountain and ocean, is an easy place to lose yourself. Peppered among the endless tracts tucked within the spider web of freeways are oases for those who need a little help tracking themselves down again. Jordan’s work draws her to these places.
When Time: The Kalief Browder Story debuted last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), it recounted the youth’s tragic incarceration and helped mobilize the movement to shut down New York City’s notorious Rikers Island prison. Now, the Peabody Awards, which salute compelling and crucial forms of digital storytelling, have nominated the six-part miniseries in its Documentary category.
Browder was 22 when he committed suicide after spending over three torturous years incarcerated on Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack at age 16. His trial was repeatedly delayed until charges were dropped. He left prison with crippling PTSD—which ultimately led to his death by suicide.
In the last week, Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place won the domestic box office and MTV’s Jersey Shore Family Vacation rolled to the strongest unscripted cable debut in six years. The efforts provide commercial evidence of Viacom’s ongoing transformation – fueled by wide-ranging creative investments in talent, programming, and marketing.
The chart-topping numbers are especially encouraging in a media environment of ever-more-elusive audiences. The divergent paths to success of these two properties – A Quiet Place delivering something novel by elevating a horror story to a genre-busting blockbuster that appeals to all audiences, Jersey Shore Family Vacation building on MTV’s deep well of intellectual property to connect with its core demographic – underscore the way in which a creative renaissance is driving Viacom’s growth.
Marketing a near-silent film in an era of loud
Making a bet on the film’s potential playability, Paramount unveiled A Quiet Place at SXSW to great response. The highly original film immediately started compiling incredibly strong reviews. A clever marketing campaign then helped launch A Quiet Place to a $50.3 million opening weekend, good for the second-best domestic opening of 2018 (behind Black Panther). With a $17 million budget, the Platinum Dunes-produced and John Krasinski-directed film is a validation of Paramount’s reoriented slate and refreshed marketing approach under CEO Jim Gianopulos, who joined the studio last year.
“An innovative concept, with great talent both behind the camera and in front, and a savvy distribution and marketing plan led to Paramount’s biggest opening since 2016,” wrote Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in a staff memo about the film’s success.
Building strong relationships with talent has become a particular focus for Viacom under Bakish, and Krasinski, who will produce and star in the Paramount Television-produced Jack Ryan for Amazon and co-created Paramount Network’s hit show Lip Sync Battle, demonstrates the enormous cross-brand potential that forming such deep relationships can yield.
A Quiet Place’s unique storyline – featuring a family tiptoeing through a post-apocalyptic world infested with insectoid monsters that will devour anyone who makes a sound – created an opportunity for Paramount to execute an equally original pre-release marketing plan. They delivered: moviegoers in nearly 100 theater chains caught the sonically attuned monsters devouring noisy spectators in pre-show spots, with the stern warning that “the movie theater should be A Quiet Place.” A pre-Super Bowl ad, a launch of the second trailer on Ellen, and a kick-off spot and accompanying stunts at the SXSW Film Festival primed diverse audiences for the film’s release.
“Paramount’s reconstituted management team is focused on allowing great filmmakers to make great movies, and then doing everything we can to support those movies,” said Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “In A Quiet Place, we did exactly that: We gave a talented young director license to put together something unlike anything else out there, and then threw our marketing and distribution expertise behind the project.”
Tapping an iconic property to connect with a core audience
Jersey Shore Family Vacation had less work to do in the name-recognition department, as its iconic predecessor, Jersey Shore, had long ago etched its cast into the cultural conversation. The unknown was whether this fist-pumping bunch, six years older and reunited in the beaches and bars of Miami, would still connect with audiences.
It did. The show’s nearly 10 million total viewers and 4.2 average rating in the core 18-34 demo on live-plus-three-days metrics made Jersey Shore Family Vacation the most-watched unscripted debut on U.S. cable since 2012. The original Jersey Shore had ignited a global franchise – with spin-offs in the UK, Spain, Poland and Mexico, plus the recently launched hit Floribama Shorein the U.S – and the cast’s return resonated globally, with the premiere airing in nearly 180 countries and territories.
The strong ratings complemented a seven-hour trending run on Twitter and acted as an emphatic endorsement of MTV’s revamped creative direction under President Chris McCarthy. Under his leadership, the network has grown ratings for three consecutive quarters for the first time in seven years behind a blend of revitalized franchises, returning classics and original programs.
“MTV is about celebrating youth culture and music where talent and creativity unite to produce content that resonates across generations,” said McCarthy, who also oversees VH1 and Logo. “Jersey Shore Family Vacation and the new Floribama Shore demonstrate how MTV can harness our heritage to create programming that appeals to a mass audience while serving as a great launching pad for our new series.”
Part of Team Viacom at Cycle for Survival’s New York City fundraiser.
In a continuing tradition central to Viacommunity’s All Good, All Year initiative, 24 Team Viacom employees in New York and Los Angeles joined the battle to beat rare cancers by participating in Cycle for Survival’s 12th year of rides, helping to raise some of the more than $40 million in critical funds that the organization has raised for rare cancer research this season alone.
In Los Angeles, eight riders rallied at Equinox Sports Club West LA for a four-hour single-bike relay, joining the more than 150 teams sharing 300 bikes among 1,500 participants. Paramount’s Anna Sivak won a $100 Amazon gift card from a Team Viacom fundraising challenge, while Equinox named the studio’s Kim Seiniger as the session’s most enthusiastic rider, awarding her a $100 donation to her fundraising page.
“Team Viacom was in full force for the Cycle for Survival ride at the Westside Equinox Gym. There were so many amazing riders pumped for the cause,” said Mary Jo Braun, executive director of Music Clearance at Paramount Pictures, who joined colleagues Ryan Stouffer Sandra Hiestand, Agnieszka Szymanska, Kevin Chalk and Stephanie Aguilar on the ride.
In New York, 16 riders shared two bikes over four hours at the second annual Media and Tech Innovators ride at Equinox Bryant Park, which hosted 600 riders from 30 companies.
“What an honor it was to be part of such a remarkable event and ride for those who have fought and continue to fight to beat rare cancers,” said Amanda Yasoshima, a manager at Velocity Brand Partnerships.
Viacom scored 13 nominees for this year’s Webby Awards, appearing across diverse categories – a blend of comedy, kids’ stuff, award shows activations, marketing campaigns, lifestyle programming and more – underscoring the company’s reach across broad demographics. Each of these 13 standouts is eligible for both The Webby Award – chosen by the 2,000-member International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences – and The Webby People’s Voice Award, which fans can vote on here through Thursday, April 19.
The 22nd annual iteration of the best-of-the-internet awards also granted Viacom 14 honoree slots, a sort of honorable mention that positions the activations alongside the vote-eligible finalists.
Click through below to vote for specific Viacom entries. The Webby Awards will announce this year’s honorees on Tuesday, April 24, and will host an award show in New York City on May 14. Fans can stream the show on the Webby website the following morning.
The Big Sick – Life in the Laugh Lane – Film & Video/Branded Entertainment/Comedy
This is a fairly acceptable way to address teammates, regardless of gender. Right?
Well, it’s complicated.
In March, Viacom’s Talent Acquisition team invited employees to an event called Building Empathy and Awareness: Lessons from the Transgender Community. The session, which was held at both Viacom’s Times Square and Los Angeles offices, was a poignant exercise in reflection and understanding helmed by diversity consultants Marnie Florin and Kevin Perry. The event, which was aimed toward recruiters and hiring managers, broke down some of the issues and terms that are vital to understanding the transgender community: intersectionality, gender dysphoria, pronouns and advocacy, among others.
Viacom is a safe space, but how can it improve?
Florin and Perry explained further: Viacom scores 100 on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) index for workplace protections, including having trans-inclusive health benefits and diversity training (such as Lessons from the Transgender Community). However, the company is always seeking to improve its diversity and inclusion efforts.
“This is a victory for equality, for the LGBT community, for businesses at large, and for common sense.” – Rick Baker, Senior Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs, on the successful ruling to protect LGBT workers under the Civil Rights Act. https://t.co/Zee03sDOFkpic.twitter.com/XRV3mYKCRy
Viacom is a longtime supporter of LGBT rights in the workplace.
At the New York session, Florin and Perry solicited questions from the audience about Viacom policies and overall TA best practices when it comes to hiring trans employees. Some situations, they explained, can still be difficult, even at progressive companies like Viacom.
As a cisgender woman, the following situations are not difficult: showing my ID at the desk when welcoming a guest; enjoying perks like the Wellness Studio workout classes; taking advantage of on-site massages or hairstyling; flying for business travel; using the restroom.
But for trans employees, these are situations that can cause anxiety, depression or downright terror.
Florin and Perry didn’t take too much time pointing out blind spots like this. Throughout the lecture they offered myriad facts and lists, but let the audience know that they could find more information online. The goal was to re-orient us to see our work lives through the eyes of a trans employee, and help us align ourselves to be an ally.
“How can the country that elected Donald Trump president be the same country that rates hip-hop as the number one mainstream genre?”
This is the question that opened Viacom’s Hype & Influence panel, moderated by Marketing Strategy’s Brooke Ozaydinli and featuring MTV’s Wanda Coriano, BET Music & Talent’s Bianca Edwards, and rapper Maliibu Miitch. The exploration of the state of Hip-Hop in today’s culture was a Black History Month event organized at the company’s Times Square headquarters by The BEAT (Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African-American experience), the Marketing Strategy team, and the BET Music Meeting.
“It’s not surprising,” Edwards said to Ozaydinli’s opening question, “because hip-hop thrives in environments with oppression and adversity.”
The Hype & Influence panel built on a video series of the same name, created by Viacom’s V By Viacom platform to explore cultural trends. The first edition, featuring BET’s Connie Orlando, 300 Entertainment co-founder Kevin Liles, and Miitch explored the same themes as the panel, which opened with a viewing:
Here are a few other highlights from the afternoon, from thoughts on the authenticity of Cardi B to the power and potential perils of hip-hop:
“People are used to everything being cookie-cutter”
Miitch addressed why she thought people connected with Cardi B, whose Bodak Yellow video has been viewed nearly a half billion times on YouTube. “People are used to everything being cookie-cutter,” she said, “but with an artist like Cardi, who doesn’t filter herself, people connect with her because she says out loud the things that people are thinking.”
Sparking a love of music
Coriano grew up in The Bronx hearing hip-hop on the streets, forming the foundation of her love for music across genres. “Living in the Bronx, hip-hop was my music and it was the music of that time.”
Maliibu Miitch and members of her Atlantic Records management team at the Hype & Influence panel, held at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters in honor of Black History Month. Photo by Pound & Grain.
Should children listen to hip-hop?
During the event’s question-and-answer portion, I sparked an extended debate when I asked about the relationship between kids and hip-hop. Miitch argued that parents do a lot of things in front of their kids that could be deemed worse than what artists rap about. “People rap about their truth and it’s not something to hide from children,” she said.
Coriano made the point that kids don’t always understand what is being said, and sometimes just like a song because they can dance to it or it has a nice beat. You can keep kids away from that sort of music, or give them a censored version, since many elements of hip-hop can be educational – she pointed to Logic’s 1-800-273-8255 or Kendrick Lamar’s songs about Injustice.