BET’s New Slate of Programming Continues to Entertain, Empower and Engage Its Audience: Take A Look at These Upcoming Shows

BET is in tune with what African-American viewers want: high-end drama and comedy, along with more refined reality and hard-hitting investigative documentary series.

On Wednesday, April 17, BET announced its upcoming slate of programming for 2018-2019, which will include all-star talent and a dramatic increase in original content.

“Creating powerful, engaging and provocative content has been BET Networks’ legacy for decades,” said Connie Orlando, Head of Programming, BET Networks. “With the increase in our original programming slate for 2019, we’re committed more than ever to telling the most compelling and authentic stories about the Black experience.”

BET Networks President Scott Mills spoke to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the announcement to discuss the network’s reorientation toward original, scripted content.

“Our new focus is on shows that are dramatic, character-driven, aspirational and authentically anchored in the African-American experience,” said Mills.

“We are confident that content in that vein is going to allow us to more consistently pull big audiences you’ve seen us pull with The New Edition Story, the BET Awards, Being Mary Jane and The Game.”

via GIPHY

Here’s a look at some upcoming programming:

Paramount Pictures’ Boomerang has boomeranged back from Viacom’s deep library

Eddie Murphy’s 1992 film Boomerang is being modernized into a 30-minute comedy series, which BET will partner with Paramount TV to produce. The show mines evergreen themes from the OG film like office politics, shown through the lens of today’s culture. Expect to see plotlines develop around gender roles and the relationship between Gen-X and millennials in the workplace.

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Creative Resurgence Drives Ratings Growth For Viacom’s Adult Brands

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Fresh off a successful launch for the Paramount Network, Viacom’s portfolio of adult channels (Paramount Network plus CMT and TV Land), just wrapped the quarter with strong ratings growth – in some cases, the highest in several years, making an essential contribution to the company’s ongoing transformation.

CMT secured its 16th consecutive month of year-over-year ratings growth. TV Land stamped out its best ratings month in more than four years. And Paramount Network debuted its premium content to enormous ratings gains over its predecessor network.

“As we look at how Viacom is performing domestically, there have [been] huge properties and huge networks, and I don’t see that changing,” Frank Tanki, who acts as general manager for CMT and TV Land, recently told Broadcasting & Cable. “We’ve got a lot of support from a lot of the Viacom management team, so I feel good about our future.”

Paramount Network – originals are connecting with new viewers

Driven by the success of the critically-acclaimed scripted event series Waco and anchored by returning hits Lip Sync BattleInk Master and Bar Rescue, Paramount Network’s original series are up 94 percent versus a year ago, with significant increases in both live and delayed viewing versus the prior quarter.

“Our goal this quarter was to introduce the channel to new viewers and begin to establish it as the home for premium scripted series,” said Kevin Kay, president of Paramount Network, CMT and TV Land, in a recent email to staff.

Paramount Network’s lineup of premium, high-quality series really gets moving this summer with the launch of several highly anticipated new series, including the sweeping epic drama Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner and written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (Wind River, Sicario, Hell or High Water) on June 20 and American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari launching June 7. Later this summer,  the dark comedy Heathers and Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, from producer, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, will debut. Carter’s most recent project for the network, TIME: The Kalief Browder Story, garnered a prestigious Peabody Award.

CMT – connecting with fans onscreen and off

Driving the ratings growth at CMT is a pivot toward the unscripted fare that its core fans react to so strongly (like most Viacom networks, CMT has drastically reoriented itself since CEO Bob Bakish took the helm in late 2016). Country music remains front and center, with music series and specials including, CMT Crossroads, and Hot 20 Countdown garnering their highest ratings in several years, while CMT Artists of the Year, nabbed its highest ratings ever.

The network tapped The Hills and Laguna Beach creator Adam DiVello for Music Citywhich documents five scrape-your-way-to-the-top strivers trying to insert themselves into Nashville’s music scene. CMT has a new slate of unscripted originals that will begin rolling out this year, including fan-favorite Wife Swap. With the hugely popular scripted hit Nashville wrapping up its sixth and final season in July, this unscripted slate provides a clear path forward for CMT.

“So these are the kinds of ideas that I think make more financial sense for a network,” Kay told Adweek. “If you pick the right properties, you don’t have to be spending millions and millions of dollars an episode to bring an audience to a channel.”   

With steady ratings growth anchoring the core television business, CMT’s leadership has begun exploring more ways that they can sync with Viacom’s company-wide focus on growing its live events business (all six of Viacom’s flagship networks – BET, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, Paramount Network, and Comedy Central – will host live events this year). Last year’s CMT Music Awards rippled out into a three-day festival in downtown Nashville, and the net plans to expand its CMT on Tour and CMT Next Women of Country Tour.

“There’s so much opportunity in the space,” Kay told Adweek. “We should be in the CMT festival business, [to] which we’re getting very close.”

TV Land – modern pop culture classic series is appealing to more viewers

TV Land’s mix of beloved modern pop culture classic series is connecting with fans. Driven by the strong performance of RoseanneMomKing of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond, the net ranked as the 15th highest-rated channel on all of ad-supported cable in March.

With momentum building toward the new seasons of Younger and Teachers on June 5, TV Land is likely to continue its tremendous momentum over the summer.

“TV Land is just a great workhorse, and I think that there is still growth for our two originals, Younger and Teachers,” Tanki told Broadcasting & Cable. “Younger this past summer is coming off its highest season ever, which in a multi-season franchise is really exciting. Teachers is another really hysterical series that we want to get out there. So for TV Land, it’s a little bit of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Viacom Says “Yaaas” to Expansive First-Look TV Deal with Broad City Creators Abbi and Ilana

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Following the signing of expansive first-look deals with Tyler Perry and with Trevor Noah’s Day Zero Productions, Viacom has inked a similar comprehensive development agreement with Broad City stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. The move, which crosses all Viacom networks and grants first-look rights to television content created or developed by the pair together or individually, underscores the company’s commitment to identifying and forging close relationships with the best creatives in the industry.

Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana may appear to be aimless and full of hair-brained schemes, but Abbi and Ilana IRL have proven to be stellar creator/writer/performer/director/producers,” said Comedy Central President Kent Alterman. “Their supreme focus on telling new stories, in new worlds, with new talent is nearly scary.”

The expanded partnership further fills out a Comedy Central lineup that was already bolstered by a long-term first-look deal Viacom sealed with Daily Show host Trevor Noah last month. The agreement includes a Paramount Pictures film adaptation of Noah’s bestselling autobiography, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish has repeatedly expressed a commitment to better retaining homegrown talent, and the forming of these expansive cross-brand relationships with three of Comedy Central’s marquee names affirms that dedication.

The more intensive alignment with top talent is not limited Viacom’s current stars, however, as demonstrated by the expansive partnership the company signed last year with prolific writer, director, producer and actor Tyler Perry, granting Paramount Pictures first-look rights to his films and guaranteeing 90 episodes of annual content across BET and other Viacom networks beginning next year.

“By prioritizing efforts to work with the best, most versatile talent in the entertainment industry, we are better positioned to deliver must-watch content across our brands and platforms,” Bakish said at the time of the Perry announcement.

Glazer and Jacobson also announced that they will end the hilarious, quirky, two-time Emmy-nominated Broad City with its upcoming fifth season.

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Viacom’s Creative Renaissance Ignites With “Jersey Shore Family Vacation” and “A Quiet Place”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

In the last week, Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place won the domestic box office and MTV’s Jersey Shore Family Vacation rolled to the strongest unscripted cable debut in six years. The efforts provide commercial evidence of Viacom’s ongoing transformation – fueled by wide-ranging creative investments in talent, programming, and marketing.

The chart-topping numbers are especially encouraging in a media environment of ever-more-elusive audiences. The divergent paths to success of these two properties – A Quiet Place delivering something novel by elevating a horror story to a genre-busting blockbuster that appeals to all audiences, Jersey Shore Family Vacation building on MTV’s deep well of intellectual property to connect with its core demographic – underscore the way in which a creative renaissance is driving Viacom’s growth.

Marketing a near-silent film in an era of loud

Making a bet on the film’s potential playability, Paramount unveiled A Quiet Place at SXSW to great response. The highly original film immediately started compiling incredibly strong reviews. A clever marketing campaign then helped launch A Quiet Place to a $50.3 million opening weekend, good for the second-best domestic opening of 2018 (behind Black Panther). With a $17 million budget, the Platinum Dunes-produced and John Krasinski-directed film is a validation of Paramount’s reoriented slate and refreshed marketing approach under CEO Jim Gianopulos, who joined the studio last year.

“An innovative concept, with great talent both behind the camera and in front, and a savvy distribution and marketing plan led to Paramount’s biggest opening since 2016,” wrote Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in a staff memo about the film’s success.

Building strong relationships with talent has become a particular focus for Viacom under Bakish, and Krasinski, who will produce and star in the Paramount Television-produced Jack Ryan for Amazon and co-created Paramount Network’s hit show Lip Sync Battle, demonstrates the enormous cross-brand potential that forming such deep relationships can yield.  

A Quiet Place’s unique storyline – featuring a family tiptoeing through a post-apocalyptic world infested with insectoid monsters that will devour anyone who makes a sound – created an opportunity for Paramount to execute an equally original pre-release marketing plan. They delivered: moviegoers in nearly 100 theater chains caught the sonically attuned monsters devouring noisy spectators in pre-show spots, with the stern warning that “the movie theater should be A Quiet Place.” A pre-Super Bowl ad, a launch of the second trailer on Ellen, and a kick-off spot and accompanying stunts at the SXSW Film Festival primed diverse audiences for the film’s release.

“Paramount’s reconstituted management team is focused on allowing great filmmakers to make great movies, and then doing everything we can to support those movies,” said Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “In A Quiet Place, we did exactly that: We gave a talented young director license to put together something unlike anything else out there, and then threw our marketing and distribution expertise behind the project.”

Tapping an iconic property to connect with a core audience

Jersey Shore Family Vacation had less work to do in the name-recognition department, as its iconic predecessor, Jersey Shore, had long ago etched its cast into the cultural conversation. The unknown was whether this fist-pumping bunch, six years older and reunited in the beaches and bars of Miami, would still connect with audiences.

It did. The show’s nearly 10 million total viewers and 4.2 average rating in the core 18-34 demo on live-plus-three-days metrics made Jersey Shore Family Vacation the most-watched unscripted debut on U.S. cable since 2012. The original Jersey Shore had ignited a global franchise – with spin-offs in the UK, Spain, Poland and Mexico, plus the recently launched hit Floribama Shore in the U.S – and the cast’s return resonated globally, with the premiere airing in nearly 180 countries and territories.

The strong ratings complemented a seven-hour trending run on Twitter and acted as an emphatic endorsement of MTV’s revamped creative direction under President Chris McCarthy. Under his leadership, the network has grown ratings for three consecutive quarters for the first time in seven years behind a blend of revitalized franchises, returning classics and original programs.  

“MTV is about celebrating youth culture and music where talent and creativity unite to produce content that resonates across generations,” said McCarthy, who also oversees VH1 and Logo. “Jersey Shore Family Vacation and the new Floribama Shore demonstrate how MTV can harness our heritage to create programming that appeals to a mass audience while serving as a great launching pad for our new series.”

Paramount’s Downsizing Demonstrates Outsized Impact With an Environmental Media Award Nomination

*spoilers below*

In addition to Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe nominations, Paramount’s Downsizing has earned a nod from the Environmental Media Association (EMA) in its feature film category. The annual EMAs honor the most environmentally conscious works in film and television.

Downsizing posits what would happen if scientists took a drastic step to conserve the Earth’s resources. Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek, a regular guy living a near-future version of the American Midwest with his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), and struggling to pay the bills. To maximize their finances, the Safraneks decide to shrink themselves to five inches tall. Paul’s life in the lap of Lilliputian luxury sours once he finds out his wife has changed her mind and will not be downsizing, and subsequently divorces him.

Paramount’s film tackles heavy themes: economic disparity, political and racial inequality, and what has attracted attention from the EMA board—environmental sustainability.

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5 QUESTIONS With: Paramount Television & Digital Entertainment’s Amy Powell

With hits such as 13 Reasons Why, The Alienist, Grease: Live and the upcoming Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Maniac and Catch-22, Paramount Television is creating compelling content spanning multiple networks and platforms. We sat down with Amy Powell, President of Paramount Television and Digital Entertainment, to learn more about her group’s approach to storytelling, the audiences they reach and what they have planned for the future.

A Partnership Is Born: Viacom and Trevor Noah’s Day Zero Sign Feature Film, First-Look Deal

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom today announced a long-term strategic partnership with Trevor Noah’s Day Zero Productions, substantially expanding the company’s relationship with one of its most talented young stars. The deal grants Viacom first-look rights to all projects developed by Noah and his international production and distribution company across television, feature film, digital and short-form video content.

One of the first projects will be a Paramount Players film adaptation of Noah’s bestselling autobiography, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, propelling the Daily Show host into the broader Viacom ecosystem while reinforcing a key strategy of Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish to more thoroughly mine the company’s ecosystem for cross-brand opportunities.

“Working with the best, most versatile talent in the entertainment industry is a strategic priority for Viacom, which is why we are thrilled to expand our relationship with Trevor and his creative team at Day Zero with this cross-house partnership,” Bakish said. “Trevor’s creative sensibilities and ability to drive the cultural conversation around issues that matter to our young, global audiences make him an ideal partner for Viacom across every screen we serve. We are particularly proud that Born a Crime will be produced and distributed by Paramount.”

Academy Award-winner Lupita Nyong’o will star in the film as Noah’s mother, Patricia. Liesl Tommy, a Tony nominee for her work directing Nyong’o on Eclipsed and a South Africa native, will direct the film.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 28: Trevor Noah hosts Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” premiere on September 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)

Viacom will also make an investment in Day Zero. “I’ve found a strong and incredibly valuable partnership in Viacom,” said Noah, who has hosted The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central since 2015 and is signed to continue hosting the show through 2022. “Our shared vision of bringing diverse cultural conversations and exciting creative projects to the forefront of the entertainment industry and to our constantly expanding audience, continues to strengthen our relationship. I couldn’t be more excited to share Born A Crime with Paramount and the very talented Lupita Nyong’o.”

The expansive partnership with Noah and Day Zero echoes a far-reaching deal Viacom signed with prolific writer, director, producer and actor Tyler Perry last year, granting the company first-look rights to feature films and guaranteeing 90 episodes of new content for BET and other networks beginning next spring.

Born a Crime is the latest project for the rapidly expanding Paramount Players, which collaborates with Viacom flagship brands Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and BET to develop films. The division’s other projects in development include Perry’s The List, starring Tiffany Haddish (who will host MTV’s Movie & TV Awards in June), which will hit theaters in November, and a Dora the Explorer live-action film in development with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes label for a 2019 release.

Kids’ Choice Awards 2018: Live Updates

On Friday, March 23, I began live blogging my Kids’ Choice Awards experience as a Viacom insider. Here’s what went down.

This post was originally published on Medium.

A sublime experience

I left the Forum about two hours ago (7 p.m. PST) and it’s finally setting in that the KCAs are over. And to be honest, I was a bit relieved — not that the event was over, but that I had successfully made it from New York to Los Angeles, to pre-parties, to the press tent (I got lost twice), to the Orange Carpet and finally to my seat.

John Cena gets slimed. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

As I was live blogging, my goal was to try and keep my “live” coverage to a minimum — a paradox, I know. But as any child of the internet age knows, you can’t truly experience anything if you’re trying to document it in real-time. I’ve made this mistake many times in life — professional and personal — and the lesson is, you retain much more about whatever’s happening in front of you if you focus your attention on what is in front of you, not at your phone or notepad.

Here’s what stuck with me.

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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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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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