Lifting Up Those Left Behind in L.A.’s Forgotten ZIP Codes

Watts is a Los Angeles neighborhood with a legacy of poverty, racial tension and violence. It’s notorious for the Watts Riots, a nightmarish five-day 1965 clash set off by police brutality and intensified by poor race relations. Today, residents of Watts’ low-income housing projects are still hindered by the city’s lack of interest in rehabilitating and modernizing their neighborhood. Children growing up in the area have more options to pick a gang than a college, and their tap water is potentially contaminated with lead or arsenic.

The 2017 Viacommunity Award winner, Flora Huang, was recognized for her efforts to help stop this cycle of hopelessness. Huang is Paramount’s vice president of Financial Planning, and she embodies the Viacommunity spirit of giving back year-round. Huang volunteers as a youth mentor for Red Eye, a Los Angeles based nonprofit organization focused on creating a network to connect the “the up and in” with the “down and out.”

Flora Huang helps a young mentee decorate for Halloween. Photo courtesy of Flora Huang.

“My goal is to provide consistency to kids who otherwise don’t have access to positive role models,” said Huang, who learned about Red Eye in 2016. “I let them know that there are alternatives beyond joining a gang and that they can be champions for their own success.”

As a mentor, Huang spends her Saturdays with Red Eye at the Imperial Courts Housing Projects in Watts.

“This is a part of the city most people choose never to venture,” said Huang. “This ZIP code is often forgotten; these kids are left behind. I choose to come here for the kids.”

On Huang’s first day at Red Eye, she spent the afternoon coloring and painting nails with a little girl named Kenayla. “She looked me in the eyes and asked if I would return next week,” Huang said. “She had pure joy in her eyes just from the hope that I’d be coming back.”

And so, she did.

The children who attend Red Eye’s Saturday mentoring sessions pose for a group picture. Photo courtesy of Flora Huang.

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The Viacommunity Spirit Emerges from the Eye of the Storm

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

As Hurricane Maria intensified to a Category 5 storm and set a bullseye on Puerto Rico last September, Victor Caro knew there was only one place he could go: directly into the eye of the storm.

Though he lived in Connecticut, both Caro and his wife had grown up in Puerto Rico. Most of his family still lived there, including his 90-year-old grandmother. The island’s storm supplies had been wiped out when Hurricane Irma had skirted the island earlier that month. So Caro would fly down with bags stuffed full of water purification supplies, batteries, emergency radios, and portable stoves. The day before the storm hit, he boarded a nearly empty San Juan-bound plane out of JFK airport.

Victor Caro – Headshots at Viacom, New York City, NY

He bunkered down in the family’s concrete house in Carolina with his grandmother, aunt and cousin. The wind and rain started that first night and continued all the next day. The windows shook, but the house held.

When the family finally emerged, it was to a wrecked world: electricity knocked out island-wide, cellphone service rare and patchy, clean water no longer running from taps. Land lines worked for three days and then stopped. The authorities, where they showed up at all, were slow to arrive and ill-equipped to deal with the scale of the catastrophe.

Caro stayed for a week, clearing debris, checking on friends and family, and distributing what supplies he could. The breeze quit and the family roasted in their uncooled home. Sleep became difficult. At night, they listened to WAPA radio as officials relayed information and, in one instance, desperate hospital staff delivered frantic pleas for help as babies wailed in the background.

When Caro finally boarded a charter plane back to the mainland, the immensity of the destruction he had witnessed – and the inadequacy of the official emergency response – overwhelmed him.

“I’d never felt survivor’s remorse,” Caro said. “But I just felt awful. I don’t think I’d cried in 10 years, and I just bawled that day. For weeks, being at home with my family, watching cable, ordering food, air conditioning, I felt guilty enjoying those things. And that’s part of what motivated me to get out and help the people who were screwed the most.”

Sending angels to the rescue

Actually doing something was more difficult. Bureaucratic and logistical obstacles make moving goods to Puerto Rico arduous under normal circumstances. Arcane shipping regulations meant that the only realistic relief option was to fly supplies in, an expensive and logistically exasperating undertaking.

Enter Warrior Angels Rescue, an extraordinary coalition of concerned citizens on the U.S. mainland and on Puerto Rico, headed by Valerie Edmondson Bolaños. The organization materialized out of Maria’s fumes to deliver supplies to the island and evacuate those whose medical issues made it imperative that they leave.

Over many weeks following the storm, Caro and his wife worked with Warrior Angels Rescue (which is part of the Puerto Rico Relief Alliance), to stitch together a massive relief effort. They gathered 30,000 pounds of medical supplies and donated cargo, along with the $70,000 required to fly them to Puerto Rico. When the plane returned to the mainland, it carried nearly 150 medically fragile passengers – expectant mothers, babies, the elderly, cancer patients.

Caro worked as a sort of fixer, a go-between who had the connections both on the mainland and the island to make the critical link between needs and resources for El Barrio Caimital Bajo y Alto in the Puerto Rican town of Guayama, a town that was in great need even before Maria struck. During the holiday season, their delivery arrived with 3,000 pounds of food, water, toys, formula, baby food, diapers, wipes, toiletries, and more to help 46 families in great need.

The sheer scale of organizing one plane trip was incredible: moving truckloads of water, food, clothing and toys from garages and schools – even, at one point, Caro’s daughter’s kung fu dojo – in the Northeast to and through Florida; raising funds for and coordinating the charter flight to Puerto Rico; moving these materials over a mountainous island with a decimated road network; identifying those most in need of both the supplies and a ride off the island; and ensuring that medical help and transportation to a safe place awaited those who evacuated to the mainland.

Clockwise from left: holiday gifts awaiting delivery; the chartered airplane that delivered toys from the mainland and evacuated vulnerable residents; coordinating the operation aboard the plane; unloading the supplies in Guayama. Photos courtesy of Victor Caro.

His colleagues noticed. When Viacommunity – the company’s social responsibility initiative – put out a companywide call for “exemplary employees who represent Viacom’s sense of social responsibility and make a powerful impact on their communities,” for its annual Viacommunity Award late last year, multiple employees nominated Caro for the honor.

“Every free second he has is spent working with anyone that will listen to help those in need in Puerto Rico,” one said in their nomination.

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Viacommunity Hosts a Screening of Selma in Honor of Black History Month

On Feb. 21, 40 high school students from New York City and neighboring public schools made their way to Viacom’s Times Square headquarters to celebrate Black History Month with a screening of Paramount’s critically acclaimed Selma, a crucial film about the African-American experience.

Viacommunity hosted the event, which featured members of The BEAT, Viacom’s employee resource group focused on the African-American experience, on a post-screening panel. To coordinate this celebration in honor of Black History Month, Viacom worked with nonprofit organizations The Opportunity Network and Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation (SASF), which provide academic support to students from underserved communities.

Selma depicts Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fight for equal voting rights during the Civil Rights Movement, a momentous part of American history. Paramount’s re-telling of this visceral moment encapsulates the spirit of Black History Month.

Students and Viacom employees at a screening of Paramount Pictures’ Selma in honor of Black History Month – Photo by Esthefania Rodriguez

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217 Years to Women’s Equality? Not on Viacom’s Watch

The World Economic Forum is concerned that, if nothing changes, full global gender parity is likely 217 years away.

Viacom thinks that we should start closing that gap today.

Today, March 8, is a good day for it: it’s International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual celebration of change-makers fighting for gender equality. Viacom, along with other media companies, nonprofit organizations, charities, politicians, entrepreneurs and activists around the globe, will celebrate women in a tradition dating back to the suffrage movements of the early 20th century.

Today, Viacom brands, talent and executives will spread a message of equality and social activism through the company’s global platforms, through a series of fan and employee events, and through support for larger movements lending a megaphone to women’s collective voice.

Here’s the breakdown on how Viacom will promote International Women’s Day:

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Kids’ Fluid Approach to Life, Italian Youth + Politics, Viewers’ Love for TV and More: International Insights Digest, March Edition

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Viacom’s latest consumer insights include global kids’ fluid approach to life, youth and politics in Italy, viewers’ love for TV, teens speaking out against injustice, and the decline of casual sex. As always, on our blog you can find these and all our stories in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.

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Comedian Tiffany Haddish to Host the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards

The MTV Movie & TV Awards continue to forge a path of diversity, inclusion and all-around awesomeness. Last year, the network tentpole revamped its award parameters, doing away with gendered categories and doling out buckets of golden popcorn to those who helped produce the best of film, television and digital media.

This year, Girls Trip actress Tiffany Haddish will host the ceremony.

Haddish is pumped, to say the least. The star shared a video with her 1.8 million Instagram followers to announce the news. “It’s gonna be off the chain,” said Haddish. “Because you know why? I’m hosting! And you know what that means ― it’s gonna be hilarious.”

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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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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.

Viacom Acquires VidCon, Boosting Live Event and Digital Businesses

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

In a move that will accelerate its participation and investment in next-generation platforms and expand its focus on live events, Viacom has acquired VidCon, host of the world’s largest multi-day conference for the global online community.

VidCon – which will remain a stand-alone entity and retain its senior leadership team – will be able to considerably expand its global reach with the start-up spirit that has allowed it to flourish.

“VidCon has become the foremost gathering place for the passionate online video community, and the access to talent, experts and education that VidCon provides for attendees is unparalleled,” said Jason Jordan, Viacom executive vice president of Multiplatform Strategy and Operations. “We’re excited to partner with the team to help achieve their vision and expand VidCon’s reach around the world while maintaining the grassroots energy and authenticity that makes the experience so unique and special to so many.”

Moving Viacom to the center of the online video landscape

The announcement follows Viacom’s November launch of Viacom Digital Studios under President Kelly Day and last month’s acquisition of influence marketing firm WHOSAY, underscoring the company’s push onto the next-generation digital platforms at the center of our fans’ lives.

Even as VidCon expands the reach of its eponymous events, the company’s capabilities will both complement and bolster Viacom’s ongoing digital efforts.

“We’re huge fans of the VidCon team, and we share the same enthusiasm for the power of connecting talented creators with their incredible fan communities,” said Day. “This team has built an unprecedented live experience that brings together the global online video community in celebration of the people and platforms shaping the future of content, and we’re excited to join forces as we look to expand our slate of original digital programming and partnerships.”

Boosting Viacom’s growing live event portfolio

Last year, Viacom launched Comedy Central’s inaugural ClusterFest, which attracted 40,000 fans and rave reviews. The BET Experience brought in 165,000 fans. Paramount Network’s Bellator MMA visited New York’s Madison Square Garden for the first time.

This was all part of Viacom CEO Bob Bakish’s long-term strategy to considerably increase the number, reach and impact of live events in the company’s portfolio. VidCon fits perfectly within those plans.

With more than 30,000 attendees and 80-plus sponsors (including, for many years, Viacom), at its flagship Anaheim event, VidCon has become the largest multi-day conference of its kind and cemented itself as the premier event for the worldwide online video community. And while VidCon has already carried this momentum into events in Amsterdam and Melbourne, Viacom’s global network of platforms and properties give it the resources to supercharge that reach both internationally and within the United States.

“I couldn’t imagine a better partner to help VidCon continue its mission of democratizing the creative economy around the world,” said Jim Louderback, CEO of VidCon. “Viacom’s expansive reach across all of our key constituents will give us the opportunity to expand our global footprint more rapidly. We’re also looking forward to their expertise in pioneering and executing live fan-first events – from the Video Music Awards and BET Experience to Comedy Central’s ClusterFest – as we continue to make VidCon a life-changing experience for those that create and love online video.”

VidCon will remain a standalone subsidiary and voice for democratizing the creative economy

From its offices in Missoula, Montana, Louderback and co-founder Hank Green lead a 20-person team that has established an important meeting place, safe space, and community-driven destination for online video creators and their fans. They have long partnered closely with United Talent Agency, who has pushed global sponsorship sales to maximize the organization’s visibility and impact.

None of this will change (though Louderback will report to Viacom’s Day and Jordan) – Viacom will simply provide more resources and a bigger microphone to allow VidCon to continue nurturing the online video community and ecosystem.

“I’m so happy that we found such a strong, successful, and progressive company to give our team the stability and resources needed to make bold moves at home and grow what we’re doing internationally,” said Green. “Viacom has decades of expertise creating incredible live events for fans, and we are building something truly unique by blending that with our team’s deep care and passion for the community and culture of online video. I’m so excited to be part of this team and to continue our work connecting people, providing amazing experiences and helping creators create.”

Corporate, the Demented Desk Job of Your Nightmares Come to Life, Delivers Big Ratings

Comedy Central’s most recent scripted series, Corporate, brings office humor to a dark, depraved place: Hampton Deville. The fictitious conglomerate is one of the largest corporations in the world, known for its multifarious production of goods—ranging from fresh produce to weapons of mass destruction. The company ethos is, on principle, devoid of principle, embodied by morally bankrupt, bagel-throwing CEO Christian Deville (Lance Reddick) to lower-level cogs Jake and Matt (aka “junior executives-in-training,” played by co-creators Jake Weisman and Matt Ingebretson).

The pilot, Facing the Void is a comprehensive look at dreary Hampton Deville, where “aggressive confrontational criticism” is encouraged and cost-cutting for the $5 billion corporation takes the form of “hierarchal” feeding at staff luncheons.

Watch a clip:

Hampton Deville is everything you don’t want to see in a company—either as an employee or consumer—but Corporate is everything viewers want in a dark comedy.

Corporate’s premiere on Jan. 17 was the highest-rated basic-cable prime comedy debut of the 2017-18 programming season. Critics are obsessed with the portrayal of modern-day cubicle carnage, too. Los Angeles Times TV critic Robert Lloyd called the show “clever and cutting” in his review, and Bustle writer Sydney Bucksbaum vouched for its universal appeal. “Despite the fact that I’ve never worked a meaningless job at a giant corporation,” wrote Bucksbaum, “I found myself relating to Corporate in a way that I’ve never felt before while watching a TV show.” IndieWire’s Steve Greene lauded Comedy Central for producing one of the “most fascinating comedic experiments on TV.”

Corporate is at the vanguard of Comedy Central’s strong 2018 lineup. Mainstays Another Period and Drunk History returned earlier this week for a third and fifth season, respectively. Critical favorite Detroiters will return for a second season, as will The Jim Jefferies Show. Jefferies, an Australian comic, joined the network’s slate of biting late night hosts last year, adding his own sardonic flavor to Comedy Central’s trademark political satire. “You’d think I’d stop being surprised at how smart and funny Jim is about everything,” said Comedy Central President Kent Alterman. “I’m just glad we’re still giving visas to people from whatever s***hole country he comes from.”

Watch a clip:

The laughter isn’t limited to linear TV. In February, the network will debut its first ever live daily morning show, You Up With Nikki Glaser, to air on SiriusXM’s Comedy Central Radio. The show will feature Glaser and touring companion, Tom Thakker, as they poke fun at pop culture and “make fun of whatever or whoever deserves it.”

Watch new episodes of Corporate Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET.