Paramount Network Launches, Propelling Viacom Into Premium Content Space

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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.

The network will rumble to life at 9 p.m. ET with Lip Sync Battle Live: A Michael Jackson Celebration, a showcase of the legendary musician’s hits starring Neil Patrick Harris, Taraji P. Henson, Hailee Steinfeld, Laverne Cox and others.

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.

The strategy has proven successful on the domestic front as well. Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. remain the top kids brands, MTV has ignited a primetime ratings and programming resurgence, Comedy Central completed 2017 with its best ratings week of the year, and BET just completed its 16th year as the top cable network for African-Americans. The last piece was the launch of Paramount Network.

“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. Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner, American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, and a re-imagining of the 80s classic Heathers will 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,” 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 Paramount Network President Kevin 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.

Nashville Season Six Debuts On a High Note

Nashville Is back and in rhythm.

On Thursday, Jan. 4, CMT’s beloved country soap Nashville returned for its sixth and final season. 1.6 million viewers joined them, a testament to the loyal “Nashie” fan base hooked by season five’s plot twists—including the death of a major character (Connie Britton’s Rayna Jaymes), police misconduct and racial profiling, song stealing and scheming, dramatic hookups and breakups…accompanied by melodic country harmonies, of course.

Nashville started 2018 with the highest ratings since its midseason five premiere. And according to Nielsen, Nashville’s debut was the night’s top social entertainment cable program—with #NashvilleCMT trending nationally on Twitter.

“The final season is truly the culmination of the incredible journey of each of these beloved characters,” said Keith Cox, president of development for Paramount, CMT and TV Land. “We want to give the fans, who fought so passionately to bring the show to CMT, a spectacular ending and great payoff.”

Watch a teaser for the next episode:

“The continued success of ‘Nashville’ remains a critical and defining part of our 2018 plan and a vital building block towards a strong future,” said Frank Tanki, general manager of CMT and TV Land. “Once again, the team has pushed themselves on all fronts and it’s absolutely amazing to see all these moving parts come together so smartly and loudly.”

The strong tune-in for the premiere follows a record-breaking 2017, in which CMT scored 53 consecutive weeks of ratings growth, underscoring the fact that Nashville is just one part of a diverse CMT programming roster that encompasses a bit of everything—from unscripted dramas to innovative digital content.

Music City, for example, is a docu-series created by famed executive producer Adam DiVello, who also helmed iconic MTV reality dramas Laguna Beach and The Hills.

Watch a teaser for Music City:

Music City is filmed in Nashville, with a cast of young, up-and-coming musicians struggling to make it in a cutthroat industry—much like The Hills, which gave viewers an inside look at fledgling fashionstas Lauren Conrad, Audrina Patridge and Heidi Montag as they tried to succeed in Hollywood.

Watch a throwback clip of The Hills:


This sort of unscripted docu-series has broad appeal: I was a rabid fan of The Hills, even though I didn’t share career aspirations as future fashion mogul Conrad (I tuned in for the personality conflicts, delectable drama and luxurious landscape), and I’ll probably watch Music City, even though I’m not a country music fan. It’s enticing to watch young professionals engage in a heightened state of reality, vying for their dream career (especially now that I’m around the same age as the cast members).

And the network is meeting fans on all platforms – CMT’s 2018 slate includes three new short-form digital series, exclusive for YouTube: How To Wear, Street Art Stories, and The Downtown Farmer.

Watch the trailer for Street Art Stories below, and find the full playlist on YouTube:

Watch new episodes of Nashville on CMT, Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET

MTV Keeps the Party Going from Shore to Shining F***ing Shore

When Floribama Shore came whirling out of MTV in November as a barrage of binge drinking, bar brawls and bedwetting, it included a surprise announcement: the cast of the original Jersey Shore, which launched a global franchise and transformed “GTL” into widely understood shorthand, was reassembling for a new series: Jersey Shore Family Vacation.

Fans’ appetite for more Shore seemed to match the network’s enthusiasm – that first episode of Floribama Shore was MTV’s highest-rated premiere in more than three years.

There’s plenty more to come. After a raucous season that embedded itself deeply enough into the national conversation to earn the honor of a hilarious Saturday Night Live skit, MTV announced that Floribama Shore would return for 20 episodes starting this summer. The net also dropped another Family Vacation promo, this time asking viewers to help decide where the f*&% the OG cast will go by using the hashtag #JSFamilyVacation.

To understand the show’s popularity, it helps to examine its layers.

Watching an episode of Floribama Shore is akin to hopping into a time portal, transporting you to a bygone era of hot pin Polo T-shirts with the collar popped and “going-out tops” (aka the early aughts) that is somehow fused with 1950s sensibility.

It’s a world where a 23-year-old divorcée is fraught with anxiety over potential spinsterhood, and a gorgeous 24-year-old woman frets over aging. The male contestants at once act hyper-macho and are quintessential Southern gentleman. Imagine living life on the set of A Streetcar Named Desire, surrounded by the scent of Hollister cologne.

Of course, this group of twentysomethings partied as hard as their predecessors, but they also prayed before dinner and had thoughtful, seemingly unscripted conversations about their lives—one cast member had been homeless before the show, and another was reeling from the end of a 10-year relationship after her boyfriend cheated on her with her cousin. (This was, according to her, an “Alabama thing.”)

These deep conversations about real-life issues are perhaps what won over fans and critics, enough to earn the show a second season. In a Rolling Stone review, writer Kory Grow said Floribama Shore revealed “soul” and lauded MTV for showing “a group of eight red-state denizens, who, despite their personal flaws, did not espouse any outward Trumpism (or for that matter, Hillary hating). They all found common ground with each other easily – praying, discussing their Christianity and talking about their families.”

While you’re waiting for season two of Floribama Shore, watch season one on MTV, or cast your vote for the crew’s destination on Twitter, because the party hasn’t stopped.

Check out these tweets from our fans:

Viacom Stands Out On 2017 Year-End Lists, Owns Half of Billboard’s 10 Best Award Show Performances

Viacom wrapped 2017 with a strong showing on the flurry of industry best-of compilations assembled by top media and entertainment press.

Critics lauded Viacom’s premium content: Vice included South Park’s Put It Down episode on its list of memorable TV moments, while BET’s The Rundown With Robin Thede – which stars the only African-American host in late-night television – made Deadline’s list of top 10 new TV shows of 2017. And The Advocate praised VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race for its positive representation of the LGBT community, commending it with several mentions on their list of the 15 most important LGBT TV moments of 2017.

Most striking, however, is that Viacom’s culturally resonant awards shows staked out half the slots on Billboard’s 10 Best Award Show Performances of 2017: Critics’ Picks. Keep in mind that there were roughly 45 music award shows across the industry in 2017.

These poignant musical moments stood out to Billboard critics: Kendrick Lamar’s raw, rapid-fire delivery of DNA and Humble at the VMAs; the moment when Logic, Alessia Cara and Khalid sang out for suicide prevention (also at the VMAs); New Edition’s epic reunion performance at the BET Awards (a swaggering fusion of OG members and the cast of BET’s biopic, The New Edition Story), Camila Cabello’s EMA performance of Havana; and Missy Elliot’s old-school rendering of her classic banger She’s a Bitch at the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors.

Let’s take another look at these phenomenal performances. Here are Billboard’s top Viacom picks:

Kendrick Lamar, “DNA.” / “HUMBLE.” (MTV VMAs)

​Logic feat. Alessia Cara and Khalid, “1-800-273-8255” (MTV VMAs)

New Edition Medley (BET Awards)

Camila Cabello, “Havana” (MTV Europe Music Awards)

👀HAVANA👀 #mtvEMA numero 3

A post shared by camila (@camila_cabello) on

Missy Elliott, “She’s a Bitch” (VH1 Hip-Hop Honors)

There were plenty more noteworthy Viacom performances Billboard’s shortlist. My favorite acts from Viacom’s 2017 shows included Lorde’s muted modern dance at the VMAs and musical trio Hayley Kiyoko, Alex Newell, and Wrabel‘s exhilarating True Colors cover at Logo’s Trailblazer Honors during Pride Month in June.

Watch the performance:

With the upcoming launch of the Paramount Network on Jan. 18, returning hits like CMT’s Nashville and Comedy Central’s Detroiters, VH1’s latest addition to fan-favorite franchise Love & Hip Hop: Miami and a ravishing slate of upcoming live events, Viacom promises to deliver another year of eminent content and groundbreaking experiences for our fans.

MTV Goes Free in Germany

Free MTV? Yes, please.

On Dec. 23, Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN), will launch exactly that in Germany: a free-to-air version of MTV on cable, satellite and on-demand, as well as the MTV Play App for Android and iOS.

The new offering complements already-free versions of Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and Viacom-operated German music channel Viva in that nation.

“MTV is a global leader when it comes to producing music and entertainment content that appeals to youth culture,” said Raffaele Annecchino, president and managing director of VIMN for Southern and Western Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in the Hollywood Reporter.

Annecchino says the network took advantage of an opportunity for growth in their German free-to-air market, giving fans unparalleled access to MTV’s deep content library, which includes the Jersey Shore franchise and tentpole events like the MTV EMAs.

Germany is well acquainted with MTV, according to Viacom International’s general manager of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, Mark Specht.

“MTV stands for legendary music formats and international events such as the MTV EMA, MTV VMA or our successful MTV Unplugged series,” said Specht.

Watch the promo video:

The shift in MTV to free-to-air status in Germany follows Viacom’s acquisition of Argentina’s Telefe, one of the nation’s main free-to-air channels, last year, underscoring what CEO Bob Bakish calls Viacom’s “unrivalled track record” of creating hybrids of free and paid TV.

Viacom has steadily expanded its European presence by shifting select offerings from cable in markets where it makes sense to do so. In September, Viacom expanded in Italy by doubling its free-to-air channel offerings on the Paramount Channel and VH1, and launched a local version of Spike TV.

MTV Germany will celebrate its return to free TV on Dec. 23 with a televised special, beginning with a three-episode run of music documentary series Dare to Live (starring Rory Kramer and featuring Shawn Mendes, Martin Garrix and the Chainsmokers), followed by a local music video highlights program called MTV Buzz, hosted by German star Uli Brase.

Drink, Dance, Donate: How Viacom Gave Back and Got Down for the 8th Year in a Row

“Everyone on the left side of the room say, ‘Give back,’” shouted Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, addressing a constellation of nearly 200 Viacom employees and nonprofit partners, all gathered in the White Box at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters one evening in early December.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish rallies the crowd at Give Back & Get Down VIII during his opening statements. Photo by Emil Cohen.

“Give back,” the crowd roared.

“Now everybody on the right side of the room say, “Get down!’”

“Get down!’”

After this rhapsodic rallying cry, Bakish began his opening remarks for our eighth annual gala of goodwill: Give Back & Get Down.

“Every year, Give Back and Get Down reminds us to celebrate the qualities that embody the Viacom spirit: empathy and engagement for the communities in which we serve,” said Bakish, applauding our Office of Global Inclusion (OGI), Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Corporate Social Responsibility (Viacommunity) department for their concerted efforts in organizing such a festive and fruitful event.

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CMT Celebrates 2017 With a Milestone: 53 Weeks of Consecutive Growth

Combining network transformation and honoring tradition, CMT broke records this year with 53 weeks of consecutive growth. It’s the longest active growth streak in cable (among all ad-supported cable channels).

How did CMT achieve this landmark?

The network remained true to its mission statement, fueling its status as the leading authority on country music and lifestyle by re-branding the network to become more than just a music channel, but an entertainment hub for modern country culture.

The new creative filter beckoned a programming renaissance, with hit shows and specials including Nashville and the limited run series Sun Records, while fan-favorite series like Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Making the Team were re-energized and attracted new fans.

CMT re-examined its signature music events and specials with fresh eyes. With the seminal series CMT Crossroads which pairs a country act with a pop artist, the network focused on more diverse and current pairings like Maren Morris and Alicia Keys, Thomas Rhett and Nick Jonas, and Florida Georgia Line and Backstreet Boys, which scored the highest “Crossroads” ratings in 5 years.

Fresh off a pair of Grammy-nominations, Kesha is joined by Old Crow Medicine Show for a newly interrupted version of her smash hit Your Love Is My Drug:

Given the hurricanes and shootings in Las Vegas, the annual CMT Artists of the Year special was evolved from a celebration of the year’s top artists to a night of hope and healing. Fans responded…the critically acclaimed special notched the event’s highest ratings ever. And with the CMT Music Awards, CMT successfully expanded the event from one-night event into a three-day festival for sponsors and fans. The events dominated downtown Nashville with multiple sponsor activations, music performances, and fan experiences…creating the largest footprint in CMT history.

The growth isn’t just limited to television. This year, CMT’s ramped up social strategy bolstered its reach to be “everywhere fans are.”  It’s working: in the past year, CMT’s Facebook fans have increased by 3,000 percent.

While the brand continues to expand, its commitment to its fans has never wavered. In the last few months alone, CMT expanded the “Empowering Education” campaign encouraging our fans to pursue higher education and was proudly the first cable network to sign-up for the “Hand in Hand” telethon benefiting hurricane victims.

The last 53 months of growth coincided with subtle yet impactful changes on CMT: introducing more culturally-relevant content to the network, and spreading such content across a range of platforms.

“We discovered that more than ever country fans cannot be put into one box. They connect with smart content which reflects their diverse identities.”

– Frank Tanki, CMT and TV Land General Manger

Network executives chose this course after careful reflection: What does it mean to be a diehard country music fan in 2017?

It means being socially-conscious.

It means having a diverse taste in music—with Carrie Underwood and Beyoncé on the same Spotify playlist.

It means being open to progressive dialogue and content.

CMT fans are diverse in age, race, ethnicity, class and nationality.

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Viacom’s 2017 Employee Halloween Costume Contest Winner Lina Henriquez, aka La Calvera Oscura, On Her Culturally Inspired Look

Congratulations to Lina Henriquez, our 2017 Viacom Employee Halloween Costume Contest winner. By day, Henriquez works in our Core Services department as the executive receptionist, greeting visitors and directing incoming calls.

By night, she’s a holy ghost, the grand dame of death, a Mexican folk saint. Well, at least on Halloween.

Henriquez was inspired to honor Mexico’s saint La Calavera Oscura after a recent trip to the country.

Below, Henriquez explains the meaning behind her costume, how much effort (and makeup) went into creating the stunning, authentic look, and how she celebrated the spookiest night of the year.

Lina Henriquez is the 2017 Viacom Employee Halloween Costume Contest winner. Photo courtesy of Henriquez.

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Viacom Global Insights, December Edition: TV’s Continued Importance, Kids’ Passion Points and More

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Viacom’s latest consumer insights from around the world include TV’s continued importance, kids’ passion points, how the internet fosters unity, Filipino kids’ purchase influence, and happiness in Asia-Pacific countries. As always, you can read these and all our stories in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.

Our latest study on global TV habits finds that in viewers’ lives, TV is as essential as ever.
A recent project looks at today’s top passion points among kids in 30 countries.
A new infographic reveals stats on how the internet is opening people’s minds and inspiring them to make the world a better place.
Filipino kids are more likely to live with grandparents and help out other relatives, broadening their influence over family decisions.
People are happier and less focused on material success in Asia-Pacific countries than 5 years ago, according to a recent study.

Your Authenticity Is Your Superpower, and More Insights From HERE Presents: Breakthrough Women in Sports

Asani Swann is the vice president of business strategy at Melo Enterprises, the multi-million-dollar organization of NBA All-Star athlete Carmelo Anthony. She’s also a woman of color.

Swann entered the male-dominated sports management industry armed with a bevy of professional experience in branding, contract negotiation and business partnership from her previous career at Macy’s. She had her MBA. And for the first time in her life, she lost her voice.

“There weren’t a lot of people who looked like me,” said Swann, speaking to nearly 250 Viacom employees and guests at HERE Presents: Breakthrough Women in Sports, a panel discussion sponsored by our employee resource group for women (HERE).

“When I walked into a room, people would ask me if I had gone to college,” said Swann. Other times, they’d ask if she was somebody’s girlfriend.

But Swann didn’t stay silent for long. She learned to alchemize negative energy into personal empowerment. Her career thrived, and so did her soul.

“Authenticity,” said Swann, “is my superpower.”

HERE Presents: Breakthrough Women In Sports panelists share wisdom from their success in a male-dominated industry. From L-R: Lisa Borders, Jaymee Messler, Stephanie McMahon, Pam Kaufman, Constance Schwartz-Morini and Asani Swann. Photo by Matthew Levinson for Nickelodeon.

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