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 2018 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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It’s Trump Versus Everyone Else in Trevor Noah’s Bullsh*t Third Month Mania Tournament

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

March Madness has descended upon America, giving sports fans everywhere the chance to apply their basketball acumen to predict who will prevail in the frantic, single-elimination crucible of the NCAA tournament.

But where’s the fun in that?

If you are part of that vast group of Americans who eschew lame rules-based competition in favor of contests determined by finding the most people who agree with you, then The Daily Show with Trevor Noah’s Third Month Mania Bullshit tournament is for you.

The contest, consisting of 64 entries evenly divided between The Trump Conference and the Everything Else Conference, will ask voters to answer a simple question, best summed up by Noah himself:

“What bullshit was the bullshittiest bullshit of the last year?”

Indeed, there are a lot of good choices. On the Trump side, the president’s claims that his was the largest inauguration crowd in history, that rampant voter fraud cost him the popular vote, that President Obama tapped his Trump Tower phone lines, and that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the August rally in Charlottesville take the top seeds.

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“We’re Focused on a Return to Growth,” Bob Bakish Tells Deutsche Bank Conference

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish sat with analyst Bryan Kraft at the Deutsche Bank Media, Telecom and Business Services Conference in Palm Beach, Florida last week. In an extended Q&A session, Bakish outlined Viacom’s wide-ranging growth initiatives, from sophisticated advanced advertising products, to the opportunities in mobile distribution, to the company’s strength outside of the United States.

“We spent 2017 really stabilizing the business, and now we’re focused on a return to growth,” Bakish said. “… We articulated a three-part plan associated with that, growing share and margins in our core business, accelerating our participation in next-generation platforms and solutions, and unlocking opportunities with synergies to the core that are outside of traditional media revenue streams.”

While Bakish looked firmly toward the future, he also summarized a few of Viacom’s many recent successes: MTV is in its 10th consecutive month of growth; BET’s ratings streak stands at three straight quarters; Paramount Network launched to both critical acclaim and ratings success in January; ratings at CMT, TV Land and VH1 continue to be strong.

Here are a few more highlights from Bakish’s conversation. You can listen to the full Q&A session here.

Viacom’s diverse demographics + diverse ad products = enormous opportunity

“… all our constituencies have embraced the flagship strategy and certainly that’s true in the ad community. We’re in a very enviable position in that we serve the full spectrum of demographics, really from preschoolers all the way up to, as I said, 25-54s. … But importantly, what you have to realize about our ad business is, yes, it’s partially ads or majority ads on linear television networks … but it’s also our advanced advertising business. And that’s around instilling data-driven approaches and alternate kind of orbits versus [potential] truck [purchasers] versus men 18 to 34 in a television-centric environment, and then all the way up through actual dynamic ad insertion, which is another element we’ve added as we’ve redone our MVPD deals this year [so that] we have access to insert at the consumer level.”

A cornerstone strategy drives growth internationally

“… [Viacom’s international cornerstone strategy] started with our creation of our joint venture in India, which we did in 2007, where we went on to launch a brand called Colors and sitting here today, it’s the number one. … We then went on to acquire Channel 5 in the UK about five years ago. That’s been a homerun and we acquired Telefe in Argentina, which is number one broadcaster in Argentina about a year ago and that’s been a homerun. So, you put that all together and you have a company that grew – our international division that grew, earnings, double digits ad revenue, double-digit affiliate revenue, double-digit ancillary revenue in the last quarter and earnings, let’s say very, very strong double digits in the last quarter and continues to be on a … strong track to additional growth.”

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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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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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BET’s Inaugural Social Awards Lit Up Timelines, Twitter Feeds and More

On Sunday, Feb. 11, live from Atlanta’s Tyler Perry Studio, BET introduced the BET Social Awards, a first-of-its-kind celebration of the best (and worst) in social media over the past year.

The night opened with a high-energy medley of the top dances of 2017 starring social media sensations Blame it on Kway and Lala Sizahands.

Michael Blackson then took the stage cracking jokes. No one was off limits; from President Trump, Tyrese, Kevin Hart and Monique. He even joked about  himself, calling for Monique to step aside because he is “the most decorated comedian.”

“Look at me,” said Blackson, wearing traditional African garb, as he pointed to a photo of himself in a green suit. “That suit has every green in it: iguana green, money green, gang green, even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle green!”

Watch the video:

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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.

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.”

Apple Names MTV Play App, Built with Viacom’s Play Plex Mobile Platform, One of Best of 2017

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Apple named the MTV Play product to its Best Developers category on its App Store Best of 2017 list. The app, built on Viacom’s proprietary Play Plex platform, underscores the company’s engineering expertise and acts as a case study of its ability to create widely adaptable solutions that allow its brands to quickly deploy their content to next-generation platforms.

“Inclusion on this list speaks a lot to the ability of Viacom’s engineering and product teams to work together to build a world-class experience for our brands and fans,” said Dhimiter Bozo, senior vice president of Software Engineering.

MTV Play, which is available in 26 global markets, has been installed nearly 10 million times and has served more than 325 million MTV content streams. Viacom engineering teams across Berlin, Milan and New York coordinated to build and launch the app, a process that was considerably streamlined by the fact that it was built on top of an extensive and flexible mobile platform called Play Plex.

The Play Plex platform is a system that Viacom engineers custom built to enable the company’s brands to quickly launch branded apps. When MTV or Nickelodeon or Comedy Central wants to build a new mobile app, they don’t have to start from scratch. They simply feed their content and branding to the engineering team, which then ingests the content and submits it to the App Store (or Google Play or Kindle) for review and release.

The result is an app that looks and performs great with minimal technical investment from the brands themselves.

“As a Viacom brand, when you sign up to be on the Play Plex platform, your touchpoints are minimized, so you don’t have to worry about the complexity of being on some of these platforms,” notes Bozo. “This makes things easier for everyone: designers can focus on creative instead of getting hung up with tech, we don’t need large engineering teams to do repetitive work, and our process considerably shortens the timeline for brands to reach consumers in new markets.”

And since apps built on the Play Plex platform have already been downloaded tens of millions of times, Viacom brands know they are creating an app that consumers will love and that will faithfully deliver their content.

“We didn’t want to build just another utility app that would be easy for us, but something that showcases Viacom’s strong history and presence in amazing content creation,” said Bozo.

The ramping up of Play Plex reflects a larger global investment in top engineering talent at Viacom, which has attracted industry leaders who now staff an ever-evolving operation that has pivoted rapidly toward mobile development, machine-learning and more.

“Our mission is to meet fans wherever they might be watching and on whichever device they prefer,” said Bozo. “That includes any new ways of consuming content that evolve in the future. To meet these ever-evolving demands, Viacom has built a best-in-class software engineering team that works tirelessly to enable the distribution of content to new platforms and reach our global users in ways that we could not in the past.”

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