Paramount TV: More Than 13 Reasons To Love Viacom’s Independent Production Studio

When Paramount Television (Viacom’s independent production studio) launched in 2013, the studio opted to produce an ambitious first project for Fox: Grease: Live. The live televised special was a remake of the classic 1978 film Grease, and incorporated songs from the original movie, as well as a live studio audience to simulate the effects of a Broadway performance.

The show was nominated for 10 Emmy Awards, and won five—more than any other televised musical in history. It was also the no. 1 most social live musical event ever. It was the most-watched program when it aired on Jan. 31, 2016, with over 12 million viewers tuning in to watch the impressive performance, which critics called “skillfully directed” and “true to the original.”

The most vital part of this production, according to reviews, was the production itself.

Grease Live wins at the 2016 Creative Arts Emmy Awards. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

“Buoyed by tremendous camera work, fleet-footed choreography…and a sound mix that was fuller (or less tinny) than any comparable production that’s come before it, Grease built on the live (but not in front of a live audience) musicals championed by rival NBC over the last three years,” wrote Michael Slezak for TVLine.com.

How did a new production studio achieve such tremendous results from their first endeavor?

President of Paramount TV Amy Powell explains her strategy. “As content creators, we look for new and exciting opportunities that will appeal to audiences and find the right platform for our series,” said Powell. “We partner with top-notch talent and distributors that share in our vision and give creators the freedom to bring the content to life.”

By tapping Paramount’s rich content library and opening itself to collaborations with rival entertainment platforms, Paramount TV is a shining example of media industry synergy. The studio believes that partnerships are key—creating top-tier entertainment is a result of having the best ideas, and if those ideas come from external individuals or companies, it’s imperative to find a way to bring them together. Paramount TV is making this happen.

The studio’s original goal was to create one drama and two on-air comedies in three years. It easily surpassed that, creating a constellation of content that includes the Emmy Award-winning television musical special Grease: Live, Nickelodeon’s Emmy-nominated musical comedy School of Rock, EPIX’s critically acclaimed espionage drama series Berlin Station, USA Network’s hit series Shooter, Netflix’s teen drama 13 Reasons Why and the upcoming Amazon action drama Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.

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Spike Continues Documentary Excellence With Story of Heath Ledger

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

In the wake of its powerful six-part Time: The Kalief Browder Story docu-series scorching the American prison system, Spike is returning with another riveting documentary.

I Am Heath Ledger explores the life and tragic death of a rising Hollywood talent. The film, produced and directed by Derik Murray, is an astonishing posthumous profile of the fiercely talented and energetic actor stitched together from previously unseen footage shot from Ledger’s own cameras.

The actor died in 2008, long before the rise of the smartphone dropped a camera in everyone’s pocket, yet the film underscores the centrality of the device to Ledger’s life.

“There were always cameras around,” said model Christina Cauchi – one of many friends, family, and industry peers interviewed for the documentary – in the recently released trailer. “A videocamera or a Polaroid camera or the film camera. That’s the only way that I think of him, with the camera in his hand.”

“He was always a director,” said musician Ben Harper in the same video. “Acting was just a way to get there.”

Watch the full trailer below:

Ledger’s talents as an actor were considerable, however, and included the role of gay cowboy Ennis in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain and an Oscar-winning performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

“Before Brokeback Mountain came out, it would have been unthinkable to have romantic tragedy involving two gay cowboys,” said actor Ben Mendelsohn. “This is one of the biggest heartthrobs on Earth taking on that character. That’s an artist.”

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Spike TV to Become Paramount Network in 2018 as Viacom Executes Core Business Strategy

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The Paramount Network will launch in the first quarter of 2018, adding a premium entertainment channel to Viacom’s portfolio and executing a core component of the company’s strategic shift under new CEO Bob Bakish. The new net will carry the very best of Spike TV – which Paramount Network will replace – along with high-quality scripted series that will appeal to a broad and diverse audience.

“Our mission is to establish Paramount Network as a prime destination for premium storytelling,” said Kevin Kay, president of Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT. “From Alicia Silverstone as a trailblazing independent working mother in the 1970s to Michael Shannon as an FBI negotiator during the Branch Davidians dramatic standoff and siege, Paramount Network will be the home to compelling stories, unforgettable characters, and high quality production with a distinctive global appeal.”

We have three-quarters of a year until the new property drops onto the airwaves, and a lot more details will emerge between now and then, but here are three things we know right now about Paramount Network:

1) Paramount Network will be a destination for premium storytelling

The Paramount Network’s launch date announcement itemized an impressive roster of scripted series that will roll out in the channel’s first quarter.

Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari will star in American Woman, a 1970s drama about family and independence in a feminism-infused landscape. Heathers creates comedy anthology out of the 1988 film of the same name. Waco will transport us back to the standoff at the Branch Davidian compound with an entirely fresh perspective. And I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. is the latest in the acclaimed “I Am” documentary series from filmmaker Derik Murray.

While the already-announced slate is impressive, the possibilities for future franchises are enormous, particularly given the net’s relationship with Paramount Pictures. “Paramount Network is going to support and develop with Paramount,” Kay told The Hollywood Reporter (THR) in a wide-ranging interview. “Whether we make prequels or sequels to franchises that are Paramount movies or we develop our own stuff that becomes Paramount features, the same thing goes for Comedy Central and MTV — they’re in the movie business with Paramount.”

Kay hopes to establish a pipeline that supports eight premium scripted shows in any given year. “That’s a big number in this world we live in today and Viacom seems very willing to support that and help us build to that,” he said.

2) Your favorite Spike stuff isn’t going anywhere

Spike has become a destination for premium unscripted programming, with the full-throttle feel-good Lip Sync Battle joining longstanding network staples Bar Rescue and Ink Master, and all three will migrate to Paramount Network.

Spike, with its deep HD penetration and web of global outposts, was the ideal Viacom property to evolve into the Paramount Network. And, as Kay told THR, while Spike tended to still be viewed as a men’s channel, the iconic Paramount brand carried enormous gravity among fans.

“There is nothing negative in the consumer’s mind about the Paramount name,” Kay told THR. “Older people know The Godfather; some remember the Sherry Lansing years. Younger people know Transformers and Mission Impossible. Those are the franchises they identify with the Paramount name. I think it has a tremendous amount of value and sets a really high bar about premium in the consumer’s mind and it’s up to us not to screw that up.”

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NASDAQ Bell Ringing Launches VH1’s The Breaks, Nostalgic 1990s Hip-Hop Follow-Up to Hit Movie

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

VH1 rolled out its new series, The Breaks, recently with an adrenaline shot opening bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange and a ceremonial street renaming in front of Viacom’s Times Square headquarters. The events teed up the premiere of the hip-hop throwback series that followed and directly continued a VH1 movie of the same name that aired early last year, and ended up ranking as the number two cable movie of 2016.

The Breaks movie debuted last year to huge fanfare and really strong ratings, and so it became a no-brainer to take this fabulous movie to series,” said Amy Doyle, general manager of MTV, VH1 and Logo, flanked by the show’s cast and crew at NASDAQ’s opening bell podium. “The buzz on this show is palpable. Essence has deemed it, ‘VH1’s highly anticipated new series,’ and NPR is calling it – my favorite – ‘a hip-hop answer to Mad Men.’”

 

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VH1 executives and cast and crew of The Breaks gather at the NASDAQ stock exchange to ring the opening bell on Feb. 17, 2017. Photo by Christopher Galluzzo, Getty Images

Later that morning, this crew gathered again on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 44th Street in Manhattan to temporarily rename the street “The Breaks Way.”

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17: Atmsphere at the VH1 street renaming "The Breaks Way" for the premiere- Monday, February 20th at 9PM ET/PT. on February 17, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for VH1)

NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 17: Atmsphere at the VH1 street renaming “The Breaks Way” for the premiere- Monday, February 20th at 9PM ET/PT. on February 17, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for VH1)

The Breaks rumbles out of the unfiltered New York City of 1990, an ode to hip-hop’s gritty rise that is equal parts historical drama, nostalgia trip, and reminder that there was nothing predestined about the genre’s eventual rise.

A period piece set at a crucial juncture where rap had crept into the zeitgeist but still skirted the mainstream, the series immerses us within a crew of fictional stand-ins who shoulder the mighty task of recreating that frantic era: a wily and determined Nikki Jones (Afton Williamson), her boyfriend and radio station rookie David Aaron (David Call), aspiring producer DeeVee (Tristan “Mack” Wilds), hip-hop manager Barry Fouray (Wood Harris), and drug dealer-cum-rapper Ahm (Antoine Harris).

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Channel 5’s Powerful Slum Britain: 50 Years On Stirs Viewers, Spurs Parliament

Last December, Viacom’s UK-based Channel 5 screened a 90-minute documentary, Slum Britain: 50 Years On, which cleverly compared the housing and homeless crisis of today with the situation 50 years ago. It was a powerful piece of television created through a rewarding partnership with housing charity Shelter using unique photographs of the slums commissioned by the organization from the 1960s.

Producers Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis (who incidentally were nominated for an Oscar for their film, Watani: My Homeland, on Syrian refugees in Germany) combined a strong human interest story with a powerful argument, making Slum Britain: 50 Years On essential viewing.

At 90 minutes, with black-and-white visuals and a seriously angry point of view about the conditions many of our fellow citizens endure in 2016 Britain, the project was a risk. The film rated better than we anticipated, with more than 1 million people tuning in for the whole film.

Slum Britain - Images sent to Shelter by Nick Hedges in January 2016 for the 50th anniversary. Nick Hedges was commissioned by Shelter to cover poor housing conditions and abject poverty in the UK between 1968 and 1972. According to a 1965 White Paper, 'three million families were living in slums, near slums or grossly overcrowded conditions' in the UK. The Hedges archive is part of the National Photography Collection at the National Media Museum in Bradford.

Slum Britain – Images sent to Shelter by Nick Hedges in January 2016 for the 50th anniversary. Nick Hedges was commissioned by Shelter to cover poor housing conditions and abject poverty in the UK between 1968 and 1972. According to a 1965 White Paper, ‘three million families were living in slums, near slums or grossly overcrowded conditions’ in the UK. The Hedges archive is part of the National Photography Collection at the National Media Museum in Bradford.

The reaction from viewers across social media was amazing – I don’t think we’ve ever seen such a powerful, immediate and supportive response.

And not just from viewers. In partnership with Shelter, we had previewed the film and held a discussion chaired by David Mackintosh MP (Member of Parliament), chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness, who has an ongoing campaign to raise the issue of Britain’s housing crisis in the House of Commons.

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Paramount Channel Vietnam: Five Things You Should Know About Viacom’s Latest International Launch

Viacom’s Paramount Channel already has a robust worldwide footprint, with networks spanning Europe, South America, and Asia. The channel has unique programming in 12 countries, including Spain, Russia, Sweden and now one more: Vietnam.
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Critics “Spellbound” With “Beautiful and Thought-Provoking” Arrival

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
A scene from the film ARRIVAL by Paramount Pictures

A scene from the film Arrival by Paramount Pictures

We don’t really know if or when space aliens will drop out of the sky, or whether they’ll come bearing the secrets of interstellar travel or a boring machine to hallow out Earth’s core. But we do know this: when Denis Villeneuve-directed Arrival invades theaters tomorrow, we’re going to collectively witness one of the most well-crafted guesses yet as to how the encounter between earthlings and interstellar guests could go.

Says who? Well, pretty much everyone:

Arrival is such a beautiful and thought-provoking film that it almost single-handedly makes up for every bad aliens-coming-to-Earth film you’ve ever seen. Yes, even Independence Day: Resurgence. The latest from director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) is a sci-fi movie about life, death and learning a literally alien language on a deadline. Amy Adams turns in one of her best performances, Jeremy Renner shows he’s just as good a math geek as an Avenger, and Villeneuve puts a gorgeous and rich narrative on screen that’s as much about miscommunication among humans as it is communication with extraterrestrials.” – Bill Truitt, USA Today

“The dozen alien vessels in Arrival – stormcloud black, prolate hemispheroids the size of upended airports – aren’t easy to miss. But for sheer neck-craning scale, the film’s ideas and ambitions match them inch for inch. The magnificent new film from Denis Villeneuve is the kind of science fiction picture that hands its audience rocket packs, then goes arcing off into the heavens and dares you to keep up.” – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

Arrival plays like a high-end, handsomely appointed, feature-length version of a classic Twilight Zone episode. Most of the thrills and chills are of the intellectual and philosophical sort, and we’re asked to take a leap of faith when it comes to the time-space continuum, and why not, let’s do it.” – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun Times

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Viacom Remains the Top Cable Family, Digital Traffic Surges & More Q4 Highlights

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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As Viacom reports fourth quarter and full-year earnings, there is great momentum driving many of our brands: The top reality show on cable, an enormous surge in VMA streams, the 20th anniversary of South Park, the continued surge in ratings at TV Land and VH1. Check out the details in the slides above.

Behind this strong programming, Viacom continues its long run as the most-viewed family of cable networks, with the most non-sports shows in the top 20 and more than half of the top children’s programs. We’ve also seen a surge in digital, mobile and social consumption:

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Check Out This Video Calendar of Viacom’s Upcoming Premieres

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

There’s a whole lot coming up at Viacom over the next few months.

Paramount sends aliens hurtling from the cosmos and Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard back to World War II. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis dazzle in Fences while Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman burn down the city in Office Christmas Party.

Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg team up on VH1really – for what is likely to be the dopest cooking show around. America’s Next Top Model returns to the same net. We wave goodbye to MTV’s Teen Wolf, but meet a pair of bad-ass campus vigilantes on Sweet/Vicious.

Original content continues to rule across our networks, from TV Land’s smash hit Younger to CMT’s January debut of Nashville to BET’s Being Mary Jane and New Edition biopic. Spike delivers some hard truth with a documentary on the tragic story of Kalief Browder.

And more favorites keep pouring back in: RuPaul returns with season six of RuVealed on Logo while The Daily Show With Trevor Noah and @Midnight continue their runs on Comedy Central.

And for the kiddos, Nick keeps the incredible stuff coming with Albert and Rusty Rivetsalong with a nostalgic run back to the 90s with a Legends of the Hidden Temple movie.

Watch previews of all of this and much more below: