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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.”

Read More

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.

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.”

Read More

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.

Nashville Season Six Debuts On a High Note

Nashville Is back and in rhythm.

On Thursday, Jan. 4, CMT’s beloved country soap Nashville returned for its sixth and final season. 1.6 million viewers joined them, a testament to the loyal “Nashie” fan base hooked by season five’s plot twists—including the death of a major character (Connie Britton’s Rayna Jaymes), police misconduct and racial profiling, song stealing and scheming, dramatic hookups and breakups…accompanied by melodic country harmonies, of course.

Nashville started 2018 with the highest ratings since its midseason five premiere. And according to Nielsen, Nashville’s debut was the night’s top social entertainment cable program—with #NashvilleCMT trending nationally on Twitter.

“The final season is truly the culmination of the incredible journey of each of these beloved characters,” said Keith Cox, president of development for Paramount, CMT and TV Land. “We want to give the fans, who fought so passionately to bring the show to CMT, a spectacular ending and great payoff.”

Watch a teaser for the next episode:

“The continued success of ‘Nashville’ remains a critical and defining part of our 2018 plan and a vital building block towards a strong future,” said Frank Tanki, general manager of CMT and TV Land. “Once again, the team has pushed themselves on all fronts and it’s absolutely amazing to see all these moving parts come together so smartly and loudly.”

The strong tune-in for the premiere follows a record-breaking 2017, in which CMT scored 53 consecutive weeks of ratings growth, underscoring the fact that Nashville is just one part of a diverse CMT programming roster that encompasses a bit of everything—from unscripted dramas to innovative digital content.

Music City, for example, is a docu-series created by famed executive producer Adam DiVello, who also helmed iconic MTV reality dramas Laguna Beach and The Hills.

Watch a teaser for Music City:

Music City is filmed in Nashville, with a cast of young, up-and-coming musicians struggling to make it in a cutthroat industry—much like The Hills, which gave viewers an inside look at fledgling fashionstas Lauren Conrad, Audrina Patridge and Heidi Montag as they tried to succeed in Hollywood.

Watch a throwback clip of The Hills:


This sort of unscripted docu-series has broad appeal: I was a rabid fan of The Hills, even though I didn’t share career aspirations as future fashion mogul Conrad (I tuned in for the personality conflicts, delectable drama and luxurious landscape), and I’ll probably watch Music City, even though I’m not a country music fan. It’s enticing to watch young professionals engage in a heightened state of reality, vying for their dream career (especially now that I’m around the same age as the cast members).

And the network is meeting fans on all platforms – CMT’s 2018 slate includes three new short-form digital series, exclusive for YouTube: How To Wear, Street Art Stories, and The Downtown Farmer.

Watch the trailer for Street Art Stories below, and find the full playlist on YouTube:

Watch new episodes of Nashville on CMT, Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET

MTV Goes Free in Germany

Free MTV? Yes, please.

On Dec. 23, Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN), will launch exactly that in Germany: a free-to-air version of MTV on cable, satellite and on-demand, as well as the MTV Play App for Android and iOS.

The new offering complements already-free versions of Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and Viacom-operated German music channel Viva in that nation.

“MTV is a global leader when it comes to producing music and entertainment content that appeals to youth culture,” said Raffaele Annecchino, president and managing director of VIMN for Southern and Western Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in the Hollywood Reporter.

Annecchino says the network took advantage of an opportunity for growth in their German free-to-air market, giving fans unparalleled access to MTV’s deep content library, which includes the Jersey Shore franchise and tentpole events like the MTV EMAs.

Germany is well acquainted with MTV, according to Viacom International’s general manager of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, Mark Specht.

“MTV stands for legendary music formats and international events such as the MTV EMA, MTV VMA or our successful MTV Unplugged series,” said Specht.

Watch the promo video:

The shift in MTV to free-to-air status in Germany follows Viacom’s acquisition of Argentina’s Telefe, one of the nation’s main free-to-air channels, last year, underscoring what CEO Bob Bakish calls Viacom’s “unrivalled track record” of creating hybrids of free and paid TV.

Viacom has steadily expanded its European presence by shifting select offerings from cable in markets where it makes sense to do so. In September, Viacom expanded in Italy by doubling its free-to-air channel offerings on the Paramount Channel and VH1, and launched a local version of Spike TV.

MTV Germany will celebrate its return to free TV on Dec. 23 with a televised special, beginning with a three-episode run of music documentary series Dare to Live (starring Rory Kramer and featuring Shawn Mendes, Martin Garrix and the Chainsmokers), followed by a local music video highlights program called MTV Buzz, hosted by German star Uli Brase.

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.