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.”

Marketing Executive Bozoma Saint John Shares Workplace Wisdom With Viacom Employees: “Assimilation Is Not Necessary to Get Ahead”

Bozoma Saint John, self-described “force of nature in fierce stilettos” and newly minted chief marketing officer for entertainment company Endeavor, came to Viacom’s Times Square headquarters in May to share career wisdom and empowering life advice with Viacom employees at an event organized by the company’s Office of Global Inclusion.

Michele Thornton Ghee, BET Her senior vice president of Ad Sales, moderated the discussion with Endeavor’s chief marketing officer Bozoma Saint John at Viacom Headquarters in May 2018.

Saint John is a woman of color – and a woman in power. She’s an agent of change in the business world, having held executive positions at major tech and media hubs including Spike Lee’s ad agency (Spike DDB), Pepsi, Beats by Dre, Apple and Uber.

At Viacom’s employee event, Saint John strutted in wearing six-inch designer heels, looking every bit the #girlboss: poised, commanding and unapologetically stylish. In an ebullient exchange with long-time friend and moderator Michele Thornton Ghee, BET Her senior vice president of Ad Sales, Saint John traced her non-traditional life and explained how the unique worldview that it formed drove her success in a traditional business world.

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Yes, Women Can Have It All: Viacom and The Girls Lounge on Thriving in the Workplace

On a recent Friday, more than 600 Viacom employees, clients, and partners joined Viacom executives, as well as speakers from JP Morgan Chase, ColorComm, Refinery29 and WIE Network for The Girls’ Lounge. Co-hosted by Viacom and The Female Quotient, the event included a full day of panel discussions and professional coaching focused on work-life balance, leadership and diversity. Plus, attendees could schedule professional styling and headshots.

Viacom EVP and Chief People Officer Fukiko Ogisu (L) and Nickelodeon EVP and Chief Creative Officer Kim Rosenblum discuss the keys to leadership at Viacom’s The Girls’ Lounge panel event.

‘Having it all’ on your terms

The first panel, “Career on Fire: Engineering an Integrated, Rewarding Lifestyle,” focused on living mindfully as a professional with responsibilities outside the workplace.

The panelists: Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) Senior Vice President Kate Laverge, Drop the Ball author Tiffany Dufu, Viacom Catalyst Senior Vice President Cheryl Family, and Human Resources Vice President Lisa Sipress. Brooke Ozaydinli, senior manager Viacom Marketing Strategy, moderated.

“How do you define having it all?” asked Ozaydinli to kick off the panel. “Do you think it’s even possible to have it all?”

Viacom hosted The Girls’ Lounge, a pop-up empowerment seminar, at Viacom Headquarters in May.

Laverge offered her opinion: having it all depends on individual objectives, values and ambitions.

“The question of ‘having it all’ usually speaks to the idea of wealth and riches, romance and family, and spiritual fulfillment, all at the same time,” said Laverge. “If that’s what ‘having it all’ means to you, that’s fine – but it should be an individual question versus a generalized notion.”

Sipress shared her views as a working mother.

“I struggle to have it all,” said Sipress. She discussed feeling guilty, and how she combats this guilt. Her resolution is to have a constant internal conversation around balancing work and personal responsibilities. Some days, Sipress said, work must come first. Other days, parenthood is the priority.

Dufu has evolved to believe this is an important question, especially for women. After connecting with women one-on-one, the author (who is passionate about helping women and girls advance into different levels of leadership) realized how much time women spend juggling different, unrelated tasks.

“Women are managing a lot of different things,” said Dufu. “Women are constantly negotiating between their ambition, their desire to get to the highest level of leadership and achieve mastery of their craft…I think it’s important to define ‘having it all.’ For me, it means having a career driven by my passion and purpose, having a healthy relationship with my partner, raising children who are conscious, global citizens, and being joyful and fit.

“I want all of those things at the same time; I feel I am entitled to all these things at the same time. But I can’t do it all in order to have all of that. I think it’s important to us to get really clear on what matters most.”

The takeaway: There are only 24 hours in a day so prioritize what matters most. Learn how to outsource the lower priorities. Avoid self-imposed perfection.

Drop the Ball author Tiffany Dufu speaks at Viacom Headquarters for a lifestyle panel at an employee event co-hosted with The Girls’ Lounge.

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Viacom Wins 90 Awards at PromaxBDA 2018

Viacom brands totalled 90 North America PromaxBDA Promotion, Marketing and Design Awards at a gala in New York on June 14.

Nickelodeon (21 awards), Comedy Central (27), the Paramount Network (7), Paramount Channel (6), BET (2), MTV (4), Viacom Velocity (6), Viacom Catalyst (1), Viacom18 (10) and VIMN (5) were widely represented across the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards in various categories for domestic and international productions.

Additionally, PromaxBDA honored Debra Lee, BET’s long-time former CEO, with its Lifetime Achievement Award for “her decades of achievement in our entertainment and media industry.”

Congratulations to Lee and to all of Viacom’s PromaxBDA winners and shortlist honorees. Take a look at the full list of winners for each division below:

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Viacom to Launch Nickelodeon’s Preschool Video Subscription Service, NOGGIN, available on Amazon Prime Video Channels

Viacom will further accelerate its expansion on next-generation platforms by teaming up with Amazon to bring Nickelodeon’s NOGGIN to Amazon’s Prime Video Channels this May.

For $7.99 per month, young fans will be able to enjoy NOGGIN, an OTT product that provides curriculum-driven content to preschoolers, including: short-form videos; educational content; music videos featuring preschoolers’ favorite Nick characters; and over 1500 full-length library episodes of PAW Patrol, Dora the Explorer, Peppa Pig, Blue’s Clues, Max & Ruby, Go, Diego, Go! and Peter Rabbit, among others.

PAW Patrol episodes are featured on NOGGIN. Image courtesy of Nickelodeon.

“Our audiences continue to enjoy Viacom content in more places and with more flexibility than ever before,” said Tom Gorke, Executive Vice President, Head of Distribution and Business Development for Viacom.

“The availability of NOGGIN on Prime Video Channels will be a great new way for Nickelodeon fans to watch and interact with the best in preschool content on the popular Amazon platform.”

Along with the rapid growth of Viacom Digital Studios and recent acquisitions of influence marketer WHOSAY and online video conference mecca, VidCon, NOGGIN’s expansion on Prime Video Channels is another way that Viacom is strengthening its presence on key next-generation digital platforms.

Nickelodeon launched NOGGIN as a stand-alone app in February 2015, and the ad-free platform has since topped the charts of Apple and Google, ranking as one of the Top 10 Kids Apps on the App Store’s Free Apps chart, as well as being the no. 1 grossing app for Music and Video in the Family Category on Google Play.

RuPaul Charles Becomes the First Drag Star Inducted to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame

On Friday, March 16, RuPaul Charles werked his way down Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in one of his dashing tartan suits and trademark glasses. The entertainment icon and LGBT advocate was finally cementing his status as a Hollywood legend, with a gleaming bronze star.

RuPaul is not only the newest member of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he’s the only drag star to be inducted.

“This is absolutely the most important moment in my professional career,” said RuPaul in a speech at the ceremony.

Actress Jane Fonda introduced RuPaul, telling the crowd that he deserves a star at least three times the size of anyone else’s, to match the colossal contributions he’s made to entertainment and society at large.

“Behind the glamour, behind the drag queen is a man of great depth, incredible intelligence and compassion,” said Fonda.

The Emmy-, Critics Choice– and GLAAD Media Award-winner is credited with catapulting queer culture and drag to mainstream society, largely due to his hosting gig on VH1 franchise-turned-cultural phenomenon RuPaul’s Drag Race.

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Viacom’s #SeeHer PSAs Portray Positive Female Role Models In Media

On Feb. 1, Viacom launched the first in a year-long series of PSAs across MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, CMT, TV Land and Nickelodeon. These vignettes feature inspiring, diverse women role models, both real and fictional.

Take a look at the first vignette, a feature film trailer highlighting a female engineer using her technological dexterity to prevent a world crisis. The vignette ends with that young girl sitting in science class, daydreaming about these future heroics.

“Portraying a strong female character isn’t rocket science,” announces the narrator.

This spot is part of the Association of National Advertisers’ ongoing #SeeHer initiative, of which Viacom is a leading partner. The goal is to accurately portray women and girls in media and advertising by 2020 (100 years after women’s suffrage passed in the United States).

Using the tagline “If you see her, you can be her,” the #SeeHer movement employs two of the world’s most pervasive industries – advertising and media – to illustrate the extraordinary things that women are doing every day.

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Nickelodeon Is Pumped for Partnerships: Vans Sneakers, Hasbro Games and More

On Saturday, Feb. 24, Nickelodeon and Vans kicked off Vans X SpongeBob, a glorious mash-up of vintage 90s skate style and old-school Nickelodeon cartoons. SpongeBob SquarePants first aired in 1999, and the show is still running today—yet thanks to Bikini Bottom’s underwater setting and a nautical, pastel color palette, Nickelodeon’s hit series has a definitive retro vibe.

Courtesy of Nickelodeon.

The fact that SpongeBob boasts nearly two decades of airtime (and counting) means the quirky sea sponge has a fan base ranging from adult millennials to youngsters growing up with the show today. Fortunately, this new collection offers sizes for toddlers.

Courtesy of Nickelodeon.

The design showcases iconic characters including the eponymous SpongeBob, his best friend Patrick Star and the vile Plankton splashed against canvass, on Vans’ classic slip-on and Sk8-Hi styles (plus apparel, accessories and skateboards). Take a look at the full collection here.

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Nick Jr. Launches the Youngest “Player” in Viacom’s Global Mobile App Suite

After more than 16 million downloads in the U.S., the Nick Jr. Play interactive app is available for download via iOS and Android in the UK and Denmark, with additional markets to follow soon.

What can young, on-the-go fans expect from this app?

Nick Jr. Play offers full episodes of PAW Patrol, Nella The Princess Knight, Dora the Explorer, and Bubble Guppies, along with videos, games and “silly surprises.” The app is tailored for preschoolers, so Nick. Jr.’s target audience of children under 4 can swipe and tap to play with ease.

“Nick Jr. Play combines some of preschoolers’ most beloved programming with interactive play that families can do together from the comfort of home,” said Kate Sils, vice president of multiplatform and brand engagement, Nickelodeon International.

“We’re excited to expand this offering internationally, and invite many more children and parents from across the world to engage and learn with all of their Nick Jr. friends while on the go.”

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Viacom Announces First Quarter 2018 Results, Accelerates Transformation Efforts

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom released its financial results for the first quarter of fiscal 2018 this morning, underscoring the significant progress being made to transform its business amid rapid industry change.

Aggressive moves to expand next-generation platforms and solutions, initiatives to grow beyond TV and film, the launch of a premium content network, strengthened relationships with distribution partners, and the demonstrable success of its Flagship Six strategy all position Viacom for potential growth in the second half of 2018.

“In the quarter, Viacom aggressively drove progress on our strategic plan, delivering improvements in our business and positioning the company for the future,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish. “Viacom’s most-watched portfolio of domestic cable brands grew viewership share in the quarter, led by our powerful flagship networks, which now includes Paramount Network – the biggest and most ambitious network rebrand in our history. Internationally, we continue to deliver double-digit top-line and bottom-line Media Networks gains while launching innovative new partnerships in growth territories around the world.

“Viacom has also made considerable progress in its push to accelerate consumption and monetization on next-generation platforms, achieving substantial growth in worldwide digital advertising revenues, expanding distribution on fast-growing virtual MVPD and mobile services, and ramping up resources and talent at Viacom Digital Studios. Additionally, since the end of the quarter, we continued to expand our digital capabilities with the acquisition of influence marketer WHOSAY and the world’s premier online video event, VidCon. In addition, our strategy to further diversify our core properties off-screen through live events, hospitality and consumer products continues to progress, with the much anticipated Broadway premiere of the SpongeBob SquarePants musical in the quarter, along with new initiatives across our portfolio.

“We remain deeply committed to maintaining strong financial discipline and delivering returns for our shareholders. In the quarter, Viacom continued to improve its leverage profile and we are on track to achieve $100 million in new cost savings in the current fiscal year, and hundreds of millions more in 2019.”

Here’s a closer look at what Viacom is doing to advance its strategic plan and transform the company in the year ahead:

Flagship Six networks anchor Viacom’s spot atop the basic cable universe

Led by its Flagship Six of MTVBETComedy CentralNickelodeonNick Jr. and Paramount Network (which launched after the quarter ended, replacing Spike in the U.S.), Viacom continued to stand at the top of the basic cable universe, holding the largest share of viewers in all key demos:

And the portfolio continued to grow: MTV primetime ratings (+14 percent) and share (+25 percent) both surged, BET recorded a second consecutive quarter of double-digit year-over-year ratings growth (+16 percent), Nick hit its 10th consecutive quarter as the top network among kids, and Comedy Central documented its third straight quarter of increased year-over-year audience share.

Viacom’s other core brands – VH1, TV Land and CMT – recorded year-over-year quarterly ratings and share growth. For VH1, this marked its 10th consecutive quarter of ratings growth, making it the only entertainment net across both cable and broadcast that can make this claim.

Complementing these growing ratings are strengthened affiliate relationships with Suddenlink and Charter, which should help further boost viewership and the advertising revenue that goes along with it.

Paramount Network launches Viacom Media Networks into the premium content space

Paramount Network rumbled to life last month, propelling Viacom Media Networks into the premium content realm and capitalizing on the deep storytelling tradition of Viacom’s iconic Paramount brand. Strong ratings immediately followed, first for Lip Sync Battle: Live Michael Jackson Celebration and then for the premiere of Waco starring Taylor Kitsch. Several more high-profile shows land over the coming months, including a Heathers reboot, American Woman with Alicia Silverstone, and Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner.

Viacom had already been invested in the creation of premium television content, however, under the umbrella of Paramount Television, a production studio seated under Paramount Pictures that tripled revenues in 2017. The studio’s robust content pipeline includes Hulu’s Catch-22, EPIX’s The Contender, TNT’s The Alienist (cable’s number one new drama series), Amazon’s Jack Ryan, and new seasons of USA Network’s Shooter, EPIX’s Berlin Station, and Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.

The turnaround of Paramount Pictures continues

Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos has assembled a new leadership team dedicated to igniting growth. The July release of the next Mission: Impossible film will act as the springboard for a 2019 slate that will include eight films co-branded with Viacom’s media networks. Major production deals with Hasbro, Skydance, and The Fast and the Furious producer Neal Moritz should further bolster a lineup that already includes Bumblebee, Gemini Man, and sequels to Top Gun and World War Z.

Viacom’s push into next-generation platforms accelerates

Yesterday, Viacom announced the acquisition of VidCon, turbocharging a next-generation digital platform strategy that also includes Viacom Digital Studios and recently acquired influence marketer WHOSAY.

This digital pivot has already yielded results, with global video consumption on Viacom’s sites, mobile apps and connected devices surging 38 percent year-over-year during the quarter. As Viacom Digital Studios ramps up to scale and begins distributing unique content across the company’s massive social footprint, Viacom anticipates a doubling of video views and significantly increased watch time on YouTube and Facebook this year.

Viacom will continue to move toward the center of consumers’ digital lives, both internationally – where the company secured a major mobile distribution deal with Telefónica in Latin America– and domestically, where a significant direct-to-consumer experience could be announced later this year.

Viacom’s live events business is growing rapidly

VidCon, which draws more than 30,000 attendees to its flagship Anaheim event and is in the beginning stages of international expansion, adds a powerful arrow to Viacom’s live-events quiver. Every flagship brand will host at least one major live event in the U.S. this year, including Comedy Central’s ClusterFest, which drew 40,000 fans in its inaugural run last year; SpongeBob the Musical, which opened to soaring reviews on Broadway; and The BET Experience, which will continue to attract tens of thousands of fans around the BET Awards in June.

International ad, affiliate and general revenue surge

Viacom International Media Networks continues to crank out steady growth: a 13 percent overall revenue jump, a 17 surge in advertising revenue, and 13 percent growth in affiliate revenues.*

Strong growth in Europe and the integration of Argentinian broadcaster Telefe contributed to these impressive numbers. The launch of Paramount+ in the Nordics, the debut of a free-to-air Spike network in Italy, and a restructuring of our jointly owned Viacom18 property in India should all contribute to further gains.

*All international revenue numbers are adjusted for a five percent favorable impact from foreign exchange

To see what Viacom will debut in the months ahead, scroll through the timeline below, or click here to view the full-screen version.