Viacom Renews Charter Deal, Includes Co-Production and Advanced Advertising Elements

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom and Charter Communications have announced a multi-year renewal and expansion of their partnership, the latest in a string of recent distribution agreements that have expanded consumer options for accessing the media company’s content.

The Charter deal includes co-production of original content via its Paramount Television property and a collaboration around advanced advertising, underscoring Viacom’s commitment to continue evolving its partnerships in the rapidly changing media space.

As part of the agreement, core Viacom networks –  including Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Comedy Central, Spike (soon to be Paramount Network), VH1, TV Land and CMT – will be available to all Charter subscribers.

The announcement comes just one day after Viacom and four other major entertainment groups partnered with internet television company Philo to launch an affordable, sports-free entertainment pack, a first-of-its kind offering that fills a gap in the U.S. television landscape.

Earlier this year, Viacom inked a deal with Altice USA – which owns Optimum, Lightpath and Suddenlink systems – that also included advanced advertising components.

5 Questions With Viacom18’s Sudhanshu Vats

Viacom18 is the home of Viacom’s brands in India and is one of the country’s fastest-growing entertainment networks, reaching more than 600 million viewers in 80 countries across its channels.

Hear from Group CEO Sudhanshu Vats as he talks about the business, its programming and how they’re celebrating Viacom18’s 10th anniversary this month.

Video by Viacom Catalyst.

Philo Launches Low-Cost Streaming Entertainment Pack Featuring Viacom, Others

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Responding to strong consumer demand for a low-cost entertainment package unburdened by expensive sports channels, television technology company Philo has teamed up with Viacom and several other large media companies to launch a first-of-its-kind streaming service.

The $16-per-month package will include 11 top Viacom networks in a collection of 35-plus channels from A+E, AMC, Discovery and Scripps. All U.S. consumers will be able to stream Philo on their TVs (Roku), computers (most browsers), and mobile devices (iOS app and Android via Chrome). Additional offerings, including four Viacom networks, will be available in a $4-per-month add-on package.

“The video market is evolving quickly, and advances in technology continue to bring additional choice to consumers,” said Viacom Executive Vice President, Head of Distribution & Business Development Tom​ ​Gorke​. “Philo’s platform is a great step forward for the ecosystem, providing a full entertainment pack with a leading-edge interface and innovative social features, all at an appealing retail price. We’re excited to work with Philo to create even more choice for our networks’ loyal fans.”

Philo will deliver the sort of sleek, intuitive experience that modern viewers demand: easy to navigate and available across devices, the service will include an unlimited 30-day DVR, a deep well of on-demand programming, intelligent search, custom homepages, and live pause and save, among other features.

The launch of the low-cost Philo product fulfills a long-stated goal of Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, whose experience running the company’s international divisions imprinted upon him the viability of entertainment-only packs, which are popular in Europe.

“What the country and the world arguably needs is a compelling lower-priced option that we believe can be served through what we’re calling an entertainment pack,” Bakish told an audience of investors at the Deutsche bank Media, Internet and Telecom Conference in March.

Consumers can start a free seven-day Philo trial with just a phone number. Here’s what they will find on each tier:

Basic tier, 37 channels (Viacom nets in bold) – $16 per month: A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, AXS TV, BBC America, BBC World News, BET, Cheddar, CMT, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, DIY, Food Network, FYI, GSN, HGTV, History, IFC, Investigation Discovery (ID), Lifetime, Lifetime Movies, MTV, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., OWN, Science, Spike, Sundance Channel, TeenNick, TLC, Travel Channel, TV Land, Velocity, VH1, Viceland, We TV

An additional 9 channels – $4 per month: American Heroes Channel, BET Her, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, Logo, MTV Live, Nicktoons

The launch of Philo comes as Viacom has renewed distribution agreements covering almost half of its subscribers in the past year, including a recently wrapped deal with Altice Communications and a renewal with Charter Communications. Terms of the Charter deal have yet to be announced.

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.’”

 

The Breaks NASDAQ - 824

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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