Team Viacom Runs the Central Park Night at 42nd J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The Viacom employees’ identical black racing shirts bore a lightning bolt back-dropping a three-word statement of intent: Run the Night. In the clear and humid May evening they did exactly that, dashing through 3.5 miles of hills and springtime trees in Manhattan’s Central Park, a 150-member collective scattered amid 15,000 workers from 329 companies bounding through the 42nd annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.

Viacom employees gather before the first night of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Central Park on May 30, 2018.

Leading Team Viacom’s women’s group with a time of 25:42 was Alyssa Curci, a senior manager of vendor management in the company’s Media and Technology Services group.

“The energy was amazing,” Curci, who was participating in her first Corporate Challenge, recalled. “Everybody was excited to be there.”

Curci, who swam competitively at Division 1 Lehigh University, took up running after moving to New York City. She now runs three to five miles at least two days per week along the running paths that trace the rivers surrounding Manhattan.

As someone who joined Viacom just the month before the race, Curci appreciated elements of the challenge beyond the opportunity for an employer-sanctioned workout.

“I’m trying to meet a lot of the employees in Viacom, so this is a really nice opportunity,” Curci recalled. “When you’re the new person somewhere, it can be very intimidating, and you want to be a part of the group and a part of the family, and the fact that anyone who wanted to participate was allowed to was great. It’s an inviting culture, which is something that I really value about Viacom. It’s why I joined the company.”

Alyssa Curci, left, and Ross McGraw, right, finished tops in the female and male categories among their Viacom colleagues at the 2018 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.

For at least the third consecutive year, Ross McGraw finished first among all Viacom employees – and 15th overall – with a time of 18:47.

That McGraw finished near the top of the standings is little surprise – he is a committed athlete who placed first in the ITU World Triathlon in Bermuda earlier this year and will compete in triathlons in Philadelphia and New York City as a City Coach athlete over the coming two weekends. He will also compete in the USA Triathlon AG Nationals in Cleveland in August, race as an Elite-license-carrying Pro at the Ironman 70.3 in Lake Placid in September, and start as part of the Local Elite group in November’s New York City Marathon.

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“We Feel Great About Where Viacom Is Today,” CFO Wade Davis Tells Gabelli Conference

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 08: Viacom CFO Wade Davis attends the 2014 UJA-Federation of New York’s Leadership Awards Dinner at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on April 8, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

“We feel great about where Viacom is today,” Viacom Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Wade Davis told an audience of investors at the recent Gabelli Movie & Entertainment Conference. “From a fundamental standpoint, we think a lot of the strategies that we’ve been focused on and putting in place are paying off. … the first half of 2018, our fiscal 2018 is really a transition into delivering growth in the second half of 2018 and beyond, and we feel really good about that, focus 100 percent on delivering that.”

Here are a few more highlights from Davis’ remarks at the event. You can listen to the full event here.

Advanced Marketing Solutions and strong linear pricing are driving ad sales growth

“Pricing is incredibly strong right now in the linear market … So the growth is coming from what we call our Advanced Marketing Solutions portfolio or AMS [advanced addressable inventory and brand solutions]. So between those two areas – advanced addressable inventory where we’re activating new pools generally of non-linear inventory that are addressable in nature, and brand solutions – we have a portfolio business that as we’ve said publicly is going to approach $300 million this year. It’s really — it’s growing 40-plus-or-minus percent quarter-over-quarter, and we think that rate of growth will carry into 2019, and actually in the first part of 2019 accelerate.”

Growth comes over the top  

“So when you think about where Viacom is, we’re extremely well represented in the traditional distributor-led virtual MVPDs [multichannel video programming distributor]. That’s Sling, that’s DIRECTV NOW, and those are really the virtual MVPDs that matter. … We’d love to be on [Hulu and YouTube], we’re in discussions with those guys all the time. … And as we’ve gone through and stabilized our relationships with the traditional distributors, we’ve had a lot of success in getting ourselves very well positioned with respect to any virtual or OTT product that any of those traditional distributors will launch.”

Mobile is a global growth engine

“Mobile is a place where we’re significantly benefited by our global business. We made a lot of investments in bringing mobile bundles to market internationally. I guess we’ve announced at the moment five different partnerships that we have with mobile distributors around the world in which we’re licensing some form of bundle of our content into the mobile distributors. … And we’re in very advanced discussions with the three biggest operators in the United States, feel very good about where we’re positioned with them.”

Cornerstone networks in major international markets and mobile are driving growth outside the U.S.

“The [international] business is growing double digits, both top line and bottom line. … We operate in 180 countries. We have cornerstones in the biggest, most important markets, India and Asia, UK, which is the most attractive largest media market outside of the United States, and we’re the number one broadcaster in Argentina … And then there are some underlying trends that we think are different than the domestic market. … You do have a much more progressive mobile infrastructure [internationally]. As we said, a lot of these international markets, their principal Internet access is mobile and consequently their mobile offerings are a lot more mature. … And there’s also some of the same trends and tailwinds that we’re seeing in the SVOD [subscription video on demand] marketplace, domestically are starting to play themselves out globally.”

A “world-class team of operators” is transforming Paramount Pictures

“Every member of [Paramount Pictures’] senior management team except for the CFO is new. … We’ve completely overhauled all of the processes, the green light process, development process, global marketing, et cetera. So the business is running much more efficiently. We have a world class team of operators who bring new energy to the studio. … [and Paramount Television] should do about $400 million of revenue this year, and should, for the first time, be a contributor to operating income. It’s important to keep in mind that this is really still a startup. … it’s still in a growth phase, and we expect very, very strong double-digit growth on the revenue base above and beyond the $400 million that we expect this year.”

A “forever effort” transformation will save Viacom hundreds of millions of dollars

“…  when you think about our focus on margin enhancement, it really relates to efficiencies outside of content investment. So we’ve announced that we’ve undertaken a cost transformation effort. And for us, that’s not just a onetime restructuring. I think a lot of media companies and even Viacom historically would, from time to time, announce a restructuring in which they would write off some content, let some people go. But this is an effort that we view as a forever effort and something that’s part of the new culture that we’re trying to build. We have a team that’s a full-time team staffed focused on this. We’ve been very public about the amount of savings that we’re going to be able to deliver out of the current efforts being more than $100 million in the current year and in excess of $300 million in 2019 and beyond.”

A comprehensive reimagining of the content pipeline is connecting Viacom networks with their natural audiences

“The big issue for us and the big opportunity for us is bringing the focus that we’ve cited around our flagship six networks, being able to concentrate the spend where it matters most and being very precise about what the programming strategy and the brand promises for each of those brands. … So a good example of that is MTV which had historically been dabbling in very expensive scripted programming. That scripted programming is not programming that worked particularly well on MTV for MTV’s audience, and it consumed a ton of dollars for a very small amount of hours. Not enough hours to actually have MTV be a destination for high-end scripted dramas. So what we’ve done is we’ve concentrated our efforts around high-end scripted on the Paramount Network. As it relates to MTV it’s allowed us for really in some cases less money dramatically increased the amount of original programming that we have on the network, but most importantly, it’s programming that’s aligned with a vision that’s important to MTV’s audience.”

SpongeBob SquarePants’ Glittering, Inventive Set Design Wins Tony

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Glittering and inventive, a burst of pastels evoking its cartoon namesake, the set of SpongeBob SquarePants the Broadway Musical pumps riotous life into the critically acclaimed show. On Sunday evening, that backdrop, designed by Broadway veteran David Zinn, earned a Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Musical.

The set design, which The New York Times describes as “a bright, found-object aesthetic that mixes Pee-wee’s Playhouse, Etsy craft, classic MGM musicals and acid-house clubland,” marks Zinn’s second Tony (he earned top honors for Scenic Design of a Play in 2016 for his work on The Humans), and seventh nomination (he also earned a nomination for SpongeBob in this year’s costume design category).

The set bursts with an inventive array of found objects repurposed as SpongeBob’s undersea domain: pool noodles, floaty devices, shopping carts, umbrellas, surfboards. “In terms of influences, we referenced this sort of ’60s beach culture viewed through an ’80s sensibility,” Zinn told Time Out New York. “It was all about achieving beauty through a fun sensibility and simple materials.”

SpongeBob SquarePants, which earned a dozen total Tony nominations, is one of two current Broadway shows inspired by Viacom’s deep well of intellectual property. The other, Mean Girls, based on the 2004 Paramount Pictures film of the same name, earned 12 nominations. Both are an important part of Viacom’s deliberate strategic move into live events, where fans can connect with beloved characters in a new formats.

Both productions are ongoing in New York City. You can buy tickets to SpongeBob SquarePants at the Palace Theater here and to Mean Girls at the August Wilson Theater here.

Volunteer Spotlight: Taryn Sauthoff Uses Tech Talent for Good

Editor’s note: Viacom’s partner, Catchafire, originally published the article below on Medium. The two organizations collaborate on the Talent for Good program, which creates opportunities for Viacom employees to put their skills to work in the community.

Taryn Sauthoff, a Viacom employee in New York, is the embodiment of Talent for Good at work. She applied her web development skills to help YoungMoms, a non-profit organization that supports pregnant and parenting young women in rural Pennsylvania, build a new website. Sauthoff completed the volunteer project in a few months and continues to collaborate with the organization.

The homepage of YoungMoms, which Taryn Sauthoff helped develop.

Below is an excerpt from her testimonial:

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Viacom Brands Win Five 2018 Cynopsis Social Good Awards

Viacom won five 2018 Cynopsis Social Good Awards for its civic-minded media focused on LGBT advocacy, disaster relief, and anti-bullying action, among other issues. Read about each campaign below.

Awareness Campaign/Initiative – Children’s Sector

Nickelodeon Creative Advertising – Nick SPLAT – Truth – Trivia

Cynopsis recognized Nickelodeon for Nick SPLAT Trivia, a partnership between the kids entertainment brand and nationally renowned smoking prevention organization Truth. Nick SPLAT Trivia, a lighthearted PSA in the form of a game show (complete with old-school 90s Nick graphics), educates young viewers on the ugly truth behind big tobacco.

Truth’s initiative is to get the millennial generation to take a stand against big tobacco and their profiling by using the Nick splat voice and audience.

Branded Campaign for a Digital, Broadcast or Cable TV Series

Comedy Central/Viacom Velocity – The Daily Show & Truth: Go Away Big Tobacco

On the adult front, Comedy Central’s late-night sensation The Daily Show With Trevor Noah aired a PSA, produced by Viacom’s in-house design agency, Velocity, illuminating the facts about big tobacco.

Awareness Campaign/Initiative – Human Rights

MTV – #EyesOnChechnya – Awareness Campaign/Initiative – Human Rights

MTV earned the Awareness Campaign/Initiative honor, for its social media campaign #EyesOnChechnya, a multifacteted marketing crusade that shed light on the horrific treatment of LGBT citizens in Chechnya, part of Russian. In Chechnya, gay and bisexual men are persecuted – rounded up and tortured for their sexuality. MTV is preventing the world from looking away while these atrocities continue. (You can visit the website  to learn more and take action).

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Nine Quotes From Viacom’s Code B.L.A.C.K. Executive Panel On Building A Successful Career

 

My parents were born in an era where there were no African-American astronauts or African-American women CEOs, but as a millennial, I am blessed to live in era where representation is constantly part of conversations.

When The Beat, Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African-American experience, hosted Code B.L.A.C.K.: A Panel of Black Executives as part of its wide-ranging Black History Month celebration, I was grateful to be able to sit in this room of insightful leaders:

Trudi Patrick, Moderator – Executive Assistant –Advanced Advertising

Kodi Foster Senior Vice President of Data Strategy

Nadja Webb – Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Business & Legal Affairs

Michael Armstrong – General Manager of BET Networks

Ericka Wright Tomlinson Vice President of Human Resources for BET Networks and Viacom’s Finance, Core Services, Marketing & Communications teams

While we discussed the challenges of corporate politics, we also joked about things like reading The Shade Room for news. Representation matters and being in a room with other people who care about seeing and hearing from black executives was just what I needed this Black History Month.

Overall, I learned a lot from these executives. Here are my 10 favorite quotes from the event:

Viacom employees at the Code B.L.A.C.K. executive panel. From L to R: Gerald Yarborough, Essence Dashtaray, Georgette Pierre, Trudi Patrick, Nadja Webb, Destiney Bishop, Michael D. Armstrong, Kodi Foster, Ericka Wright Tomlinson and Ezinne Kwubiri.

“In 2007, I had a boss who was a control freak and was very territorial over her work and typically gave me work to do and she would present it in meetings. An opportunity came to launch a huge project and present it to [former head of MTV] Judy McGrath. At the time of this meeting she was traveling. Despite the fact that I did all the work, she told me to postpone the meeting. I spoke to my mentor who encouraged me to present the project I had been working on. So, after going back and forth, I made the executive decision to present it. After presenting it in front of so many senior people, they complimented me and told me I’d lead the project. I thought I was going to get fired, but that was the pivotal moment that I decided that I would present it and ask for forgiveness later and it ended up working out. I could have been the quiet little black girl in the back or decided to step up and do it and I decided to just do it and after that project, I presented it, and ended up getting promoted, which led me to the position I am in now.” – Wright Tomlinson

“Working on Wall Street, I was working late one day. I happened to answer the phone in the area known as the pit, even though I usually don’t answer calls, but I ended up having to explain to a couple in Iowa why their life savings was gone. It was kind of heavy. I was a kid, looking at numbers on spreadsheets and not putting human beings behind the numbers. That was when it hit me, that I wasn’t doing something constructive to better the world, which I feel like we do here by delighting people with entertainment and I decided to change careers.” – Foster

“It took me a long time to understand that you have to have agency over your career. No one else is going to do it for you. I made a classic mistake of trying to always work hard and expect people to notice and lift me up and give me opportunities but it’s on you. You have to identify what you want. If you’re stuck, you have to first identify what you want or think you might like to do and second is to communicate that to the stakeholders involved.” – Webb

“I think being ‘stuck’ in your career is relative. There’s a difference between you’re stuck versus it’s just not your time. Some of us are ready for the next step almost immediately while others are in the same position for over 20 years. There has to be a level of self-examination. Appreciate where you are, are you achieving your goals, and if you’re ready for the next step and not because you think you deserve it. Determine what your ultimate goals are.” – Wright Tomlinson

“I think managing corporate politics is simple. While it can be difficult and political, the easy part is if you show up as your true and authentic self, you don’t have to remember when you’re faking it and when you’re being real. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to calibrate. Knowing the environment, you’re operating in, if you need to adjust your authentic self, the people around you will let you know.” – Armstrong

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Bumblebee Transforms Hailee Steinfeld’s Life in First Trailer

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Before The Last Knight or the Age of Extinction, before Decepticons started leveling American cities and destroying military bases, a yellow Volkswagen Beetle sits forgotten in a California junkyard. It’s been neglected long enough that a honeycomb of bees buzzes beneath its wheel well. Seventeen-year-old Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), takes it home.

She gets more than a car. As Charlie slides beneath her new ride to inspect it, the bug erupts in an intricate flipping puzzle of zinging metal parts, rearranging itself into beloved Autobot Bumblebee.

“Let me tell you something, the driver don’t pick the car, the car pick the driver,” a hauntingly familiar voice-over – it’s the late Bernie Mac, warning Sam Wtiwicky (Shia LaBeouf) in 2007’s Transformers – announces at the trailer’s opening moments. “It’s a mystical bond between man and machine.”

In this case, it’s woman and machine (and a woman, Christina Hodson, wrote the script), but the bond between Charlie and Bumblebee looks as strong as any.

Hailee Steinfeld in BUMBLEBEE, from Paramount Pictures.

The two become great pals. They go to the beach. They go swimming. Charlie goes no-hands through the sunroof down the Pacific Coast Highway, perhaps pioneering the self-driving car in the film’s 1987 setting.

But things get hectic. The military lurks. So does dreaded Decepticon Starscream. Charlie gets banged up. Helicopters fall from the sky.

The film, helmed by Oscar-nominated Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight, promises to wrap this action in a powerful story informed by the Transformers’ heritage. “I wanted to return to the essences of what made the Transformers franchise so impactful right from the beginning: character, emotion, spectacle,” Knight told attendees at April’s CinemaCon.

Which is not to say that echoes of Paramount Pictures’ five previous Transformers films won’t ricochet off the screen. “… and explosions,” Knight continued, “lots and lots of explosions.”

Bumblebee will debut in theaters Dec. 21, 2018. John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon and Stephen Schneider will star alongside Steinfeld.

Viacom Global Insights Digest: June 2018

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Viacom’s latest consumer insights include global kids’ fearless attitude toward life, the benefits of social media for all age groups, young Americans’ disappointment in politicians, and from Australia stories on grand-parenting and kids’ happiness. As always, on our blog you can find these and all our stories in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.

With strong emotional support networks and broadening skill sets, today’s kids are courageous and resilient.
America’s next generation of voters feels disenfranchised – and plans to vote in November.
A new study reveals that grandparents in Australia cherish their role as caregivers, even though it can come at a cost.
The benefits of social media outweigh the drawbacks, according to our latest research.
Australian kids are happy, independent and resilient. Close relationships with family, friends and pets are the main source of their contentedness.

Paramount Pictures, Paramount TV Honored for Sustainable Productions

Paramount Television-produced Shooter and Paramount Players’ Eli earned Green Seal and Gold Seal honors, respectively, at the 2018 Environmental Media Awards in recognition of their progress in sustainable production.

Paramount Pictures’ Downsizing, set on a hypothetical future Earth where people shrink themselves to decrease resource consumption, was nominated in the Feature Film category at the ceremony, which recognize media trailblazers who place equal value on creating entertainment and protecting the environment.

The Environmental Media Agency awarded Paramount Television-produced Shooter (USA Networks) at the 2018 Environmental Media Awards for its sustainable production. Photo courtesy of Paramount Television.

Green Seal for Sustainable Production – Paramount Players, Eli

Eli is the first feature film on deck for Paramount Players, Viacom’s newly minted film studio division, which integrates Paramount Pictures and Viacom brands. Eli, slated to premiere in January 2019, is being produced in association with MTV. The film centers around a boy who is hospitalized in a remote clinic while suffering from a rare disease. The child’s treatment takes a nightmarish turn when his sanatorium becomes a prison, possessed by evil spirits intent on keeping him there forever.

Gold Seal for Sustainable Production – USA, Shooter (produced by Paramount Television)

Shooter (a drama series based on Stephen Hunter’s best-selling novels and Paramount Pictures’ 2007 film starring Mark Wahlberg) follows the journey of Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe), a former Marine sniper who is perpetually entangled with bad characters. The show’s highly anticipated third season premieres Thursday, June 21.

The Environmental Media Agency awarded Paramount Television-produced Shooter (USA Networks) at the 2018 Environmental Media Awards for its sustainable production. Photo courtesy of Paramount Television.

Team Viacom Marches to Stomp Out AIDS

Here’s a shocking statistic: one in five new HIV infections is among people ages 13 to 24.

These are the same young people at the heart of so much of Viacom’s programming. On Sunday, May 20, Viacom showed that it is caring, giving, walking, and fighting to battle this epidemic by participating in AIDS Walk New York, the largest single-day AIDS fundraising event in the world.

The team, 50-strong and the driving force behind more than $10,000 in donations to AIDS Walk NY (proceeds will benefit GMHC and dozens of other local HIV/AIDS service organizations), rallied prior to the walk alongside other top corporate sponsors in the so-called “gold section,” a segment reserved for the top fundraising teams, which Viacom has been a part of for several years.

After a team photo, we joined thousands of other walkers in the 10-kilometer march through Manhattan’s Central Park. It was nothing short of spectacular. Sporting this year’s red T-shirt, Team Viacom marched, jumped, and cheered together, standing out in a sea of 20,000 other passionate walkers beneath 80-degree sunshine and clear skies. We waved two large Viacom flags as cheerleaders clutching megaphones called out the company name. Volunteers handed out water, granola bars and chips at stations along the route, which was a giant loop through the hills of green and blooming Central Park. With music booming from the sidelines, Team Viacom moved and grooved all the way to the red-and-white-balloon-laden finish line.

Team Viacom makes its way through New York City’s Central Park during the 2018 AIDS Walk.

The efforts were well worth it. Despite groundbreaking new treatments and developments, HIV/AIDS is not a thing of the past. In fact, New York leads the nation in the number of new HIV cases. More than 100,000 New Yorkers have died from AIDS-related causes, while another 108,000 are living with HIV/AIDS – 20 percent of them do not know they are infected.

While HIV/AIDS affects people of every background and demographic, it disproportionally strikes certain groups: black females live with an HIV diagnosis at a rate 13.8 times higher than that of white females, while 77 percent of new HIV diagnoses and AIDS-related deaths in New York City were among African-Americans and Hispanics in 2016.

This breadth of this impact inspired Team Viacom to rally across brands, employee resource groups, and network talent to gather support for AIDS awareness and prevention. Employees across all New York offices and their families, friends, current and former colleagues were welcome to sign up, donate and walk with the team.

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