5 Questions With VH1 Save The Music’s Henry Donahue

Over the last 20 years, the VH1 Save The Music Foundation has provided millions of dollars in funding to music education programs at more than 2,000 public schools across the U.S.

We recently talked with Henry Donahue, vice president and executive director of the Foundation, about the positive impact the organization is having on students’ lives and how it’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Here’s what Donahue has to say about his work with VH1 Save The Music Foundation:

Created by Viacom Catalyst.

Meet Viacom’s Nine 2017 Cynopsis Rising Stars

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

They work in marketing, communications, programming, or gaming. They’re planted around the organization, helping to drive some of our most prominent networks and divisions: MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, CMT, TV Land, VH1, Logo, Viacom Velocity. And though some have been here for years, they’re all just getting started in promising careers. They are the nine young Viacom standouts who earned recognition as Cynopsis 2017 Rising Stars.

This year’s awards follow a strong 2016 showing for Viacom, when six employees across a variety of brands were acknowledged. The nine honorees this year are Kelly Andersen, Ned Berger, Katrina Bucu, Rachel Burns, Kassie Deng, Marisa Mazart, Brielle Urssery, Jacqueline Vinci and Alexandra Woog.

Cynopsis will honor these young standouts at a reception on September 15 in New York City. Here’s a bit more about how each of them is forging their career at Viacom:

KELLY ANDERSEN – MANAGER, COMMUNICATIONS FOR MTV, VH1 AND LOGO

What she does: My days tend to include writing press releases, communicating with media outlets and escorting network talent to press appearances.

Tenure: Six years

On being named a Cynopsis Rising Star:  My coworkers had secretly submitted me so I thought it was a spam email and I almost deleted it.

What helps her fit Cynopsis’ description of a rising star as someone who has “proven success in aligning strategic objectives with end goals?”: I’m passionate about the work we are doing at MTV, VH1 and Logo, and with so many exciting things coming down the line, organization is key. I like to write everything down and map out a timeline to reach publicity goals for each series.

What is the most exciting thing happening with her team right now?: We are all prepping for VMAs!

What she is most looking forward to about the awards reception: I have no idea what to expect so I am just happy to be there!


NED BERGER – DIRECTOR, CONSUMER MARKETING, NICKELODEON

What he does: I’m with the Consumer Marketing department at Nickelodeon where I’m responsible for marketing for our tentpole events, including overarching strategy, off-channel execution, influencer marketing, content partnerships, and innovation projects.

Tenure: Four years

On being named a Cynopsis Rising Star: I was thrilled to find out I would be receiving the award. To be recognized by my bosses and by Cynopsis for the work that I do is a real honor.  

What helps him fit Cynopsis’ description of a rising star as someone who has “proven success in aligning strategic objectives with end goals?”: A big part of my job is being a brand steward. Nickelodeon is an incredibly strong brand and I work to provide kids with creative and fun ways to experience the brand. Our tentpole events (like Kids’ Choice Awards) truly bring the Nick brand to life, and the marketing of those events brings together brand strategy, creative innovation, and business goals.

What is the most exciting thing happening with his team right now?: We are going to be part of the team working on The Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the newest version of our animated series. We’re all excited to work on such an iconic property and to be part of its reinvention for a new generation of fans.

What he is most looking forward to about the awards reception: I’m most looking forward to meeting bright talent from around the media and entertainment industries and forging new connections and relationships.


KATRINA BUCU – MANAGER, INTEGRATED MARKETING, VIACOM VELOCITY

What she does: I strategically develop and pitch multi-platform, integrated marketing programs across MTV, VH1 and Logo aligned to tentpoles, programming and editorial initiatives in order to drive advertising revenue.

Tenure: Since I graduated from college a little over five years ago. I like to say I’m Viacom born and raised.

On being named a Cynopsis Rising Star: It was such a great way to start the week on Monday morning and I immediately told my friends and family! I was honored that my team had nominated me for this award and it’s an amazing feeling to have your work recognized, not only by your team, but by the industry.

What helps her fit Cynopsis’ description of a rising star as someone who has “proven success in aligning strategic objectives with end goals?”: Key parts of Integrated Marketing include storytelling, negotiation and organization. In this role, I have been able to craft a marketing story that sells big ideas both internally and externally as the concepts need to match the objectives of the channel and brand to create an organic fit, building client relationships for key partners like Taco Bell, P&G and more.

What is the most exciting thing happening with her team right now?: The return of TRL! It was a key program during my teenage years. I’m excited for how it will be reinvented for today’s generation and how we can weave our advertising partners into the pop-culture platform.

What she is most looking forward to about the awards reception: I’m excited to celebrate with my fellow Viacom Velocity peers as they’re all deserving of this honor and it has been a pleasure to work alongside them. I’m also looking forward to meeting the other honorees and to learn from our shared passions and successes.

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The BET Awards: A Star-Studded and Socially Conscious Celebration

As host of this year’s BET Awards, comedian Leslie Jones had a vision for what she wanted the night to be.

Leslie Jones at the BET Awards in Los Angeles, June 25, 2017

“BET was the first network and place where I was on TV,” said Jones in a press release. “I am looking to turn this whole experience into a joyful homecoming.”

This year’s ceremony, which took place at Staples Center in Los Angeles, brought recording artists, athletes and actors together for an unabashedly jubilant reunion. Among the top talent in black entertainment present this year were Bruno Mars, Solange Knowles, Chance The Rapper and all six members of New Edition.

It was both a raucous party and tender family reunion, as you can see from these highlights:

Beyoncé shouts out her family, BET and “BeyHive” after winning five awards

Last year, Beyoncé stunned fans with a riveting, elemental BET Awards performance, dancing through fog, fire and water alongside Kendrick Lamar. The superstar did things a bit differently this year, opting to stay home with her newborn twins and enjoy the BET Awards from afar. She nonetheless still won a whopping five BET Awards—more than any other performer.

Her protégés, Atlanta sister-duo Chloe x  Halle (Chloe and Halle Bailey) accepted the Viewer’s Choice Award on her behalf, and delivered her acceptance speech.

“Thank you BET for this award and your tremendous support of Lemonade,” wrote Beyonce. “This has been a journey of love, of celebrating our culture, honoring the past, and approaching the present and future with hope and resolve.”

Watch the full speech:

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Chris Rock, 50 Cent, Wanda Sykes and More Top Talent Line Up with BET for Fall Programming

BET’s fall 2017 lineup is brimming with big-name talent both on and off screen – five new shows starring or produced by Chris Rock, 50 Cent, Wanda Sykes, Deon Cole, Tiffany Haddish, Robin Thede, Gucci Mane, Keyshia Ka’oir, George Lopez, DL Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin, and the late Charlie Murphy.

Here’s a look at what to expect, and when:

Wednesday, September 27 – Face Value

This 30-minute game show has one purpose: break down stereotypes and prejudices through humor. Deon Cole will host alongside breakout star Tiffany Haddish, who will conduct woman-on-the-street segments to determine how society values outward appearances.

50 Central

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson stars in BET’s first variety comedy showcase that includes hidden camera pranks, musical performances, and a wealth of celebrity guests. The hip-hop mainstay will take turns as actor, producer and emcee on the show.

Thursday, September 28 – The Rundown with Robin Thede

From executive producer Chris Rock, this new program diversifies  the talk show space with African-American female host Robin Thede. The 30-minute late night show will discuss politics and pop culture through sketches, social commentary and parodies.

Tuesday, October 10Tales

BET’s critically popular anthology series, which reimagines classic hip-hop records as love letters, will return with its fourth hour-long installment in October.

Thursday, Oct. 12 – The Comedy Get Down

George Lopez, DL Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin and the late Charlie Murphy headline The Comedy Get Down tour – and now you have a backstage pass. The Comedy Get Down will be the first scripted comedy series to explore the five comedians’ offstage lives during their mammoth five-man tour.

Tuesday, October 17 – Gucci Mane and Keyshia Ka’oir: The Mane Event

Didn’t receive an invite to Gucci Mane & Keyshia Ka’oir’s wedding? BET has you covered. As the couple ties the knot on October 17, their 10-episode docuseries Gucci Mane and Keyshia Ka’oir: The Mane Event will also make its debut.

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Seeing Is Believing: Paramount Releases First Trailer for Mother!

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

It’s a gracious country home resuscitated by a meticulous Jennifer Lawrence, living out a bucolic life with Javier Bardem. But then strange visitors (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer), arrive. In their suitcases they carry an eerie sketched likeness of the husband. Strange meetings and rituals commence. The house begins to bleed like a dying animal. Their stately oasis has become a caged and corporeal nightmare.

That’s a little of what we can gather from the Darren Aronofsky-directed Mother!’s trippy, frantic first trailer, released earlier this week. Look for the movie in theaters on September 15.

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#Farewell @midnight

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Comedy Central’s @midnight – which aired its final episode last Friday – had a nearly impossible premise: define the indefinable by corralling the social media mosh pit that the internet has become into something graspable and tangible. But for four years and 600 episodes, Chris Hardwick and an ever-shuffling crew of established and up-and-coming comedians did an admirable job of doing exactly that.

“Nothing else on television today has done as much to showcase the humor and improvisational abilities of stand-up comics and comedic actors. In fact, nothing else in the modern peak TV era has replicated what The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson did for comedy.” – Andrew Husband, Uproxx

The format was simple enough: each night, a panel of three comedians competed gameshow-style to contemplate internet-inspired queries in a sort of freestyle inverse Jeopardy, where there were no right answers, only clever ones.

What, for example, would be the most appropriate way to join the Koch Brothers’ celebration of fossil fuels for Earth Day? What would be an ironclad commandment for a theoretical Star Wars religion? If Pitbull ran for governor of Florida, what would his campaign slogan be? What, you are probably wondering, would be the advantages of global warming? Arden Myrin, Orlando Jones and Nimesh Patel have their ideas on that one:

The cornerstone of the show, of course, was #HashtagWars, the recurring segment that unleashed bizarre and – for the uninitiated – inexplicable trending Twitter threads every weeknight the show aired. In the final episode, Hardwick himself swerved into button-slamming mode, jumping in as a contestant for the first time in the show’s history, riffing on #BabyMovies, #DeadTV, #StonerBroadway, #AnimalMovies, #DrunkVideoGames and other topics among a rotating power panel of biting comics:

For this raucous, inspired and highly original platform, the show won two Emmys – for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media Social TV Experience – in both 2015 and ’16, as well as copious praise from critics, who lauded the show’s role as a pipeline for emerging comedic talent.

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Setting New Records for Slime at KCA Sports 2017

In sports lingo, the 2017 Kids’ Choice Sports Awards was a slam dunk, touchdown and homerun. With thousands of fans and sports stars gathering in UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, as well as the multitude of viewers watching from home, the fourth annual rendition of the awards show treated its audience to cameos by the U.S. Olympic team’s Final Five, raucous events such as the Slime Mountain challenge, an award honoring legendary Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps, and much more.

Guiding us through it all was the incredible emceeing of third-time host Russell Wilson. As a football superstar and new father, Wilson easily took the head play caller’s role to steer a show celebrating both kids and sports.

Check out some of the highlights from Nick’s slime-filled sports extravaganza.

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Viacom Again Lands on Indeed.com’s List of Best Fortune 500 Companies to Work for

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Over the past several years, Viacom’s towering Times Square headquarters has undergone a series of significant renovations. In the lobby, enormous screens now hang alongside the elevator banks, a cavernous event space and a new cafe host an endless procession of parties and meetings, and a sequence of bold installations has invigorated the entrance areas with the energy of a high-end art gallery. Up on the seventh floor, the Wellness Studio offers heavily discounted memberships on a regimen of fitness classes, while employees can get their pictures album-ready for free at a printing studio. The 31st floor has been transformed into a massive convention center, while several other floors have been renovated in a style that elegantly meshes function and design.

As the company headquarters slowly sheds its old skin for the wide-open interiors of the 21st century media workplace, Viacom has been investing furiously in new, renovated and expanded buildings all over its footprint: earlier this year, the company united eight of its brands in a soaring space in the heart of Hollywood and vastly expanded its Burbank studio.

This invigorating workspace overhaul is just one of many perks to having a job at Viacom, and it likely contributes to the company landing on the upper half of Indeed.com’s list of  Best Fortune 500 Companies to work for for the second consecutive year.

What makes Indeed’s list unique is that their rankings are based entirely on data extracted from employee-submitted reviews. And the reviews are strong.

“I have worked at Viacom in Hollywood for over a year and love it,” went one typical comment. “Super fun and collaborative culture, cool brands and a nice work/life balance.”

Commenters praised the company’s perks (like free soda and coffee machines in many locations), employee events (like a conversation with LL Cool J), paid time off, benefits, and career development and advancement opportunities.

“Smart companies know that if they make their workers feel comfortable and happy, they will work harder and longer,” another commenter wrote. “Happiness pays for itself with higher productivity.”

The company has spent decades building a deep talent pool – signed plaques commemorating 10-or-more-year anniversaries are ubiquitous on desks around the office – and this shows in the deep respect that many commenters had for their peers. “My co-workers were some of the smartest professionals I’ve ever worked with,” wrote one person, who identified themselves as a former vice president in Ad Sales. Another expressed a similar sentiment: “At Viacom I learned how to be a better engineer, you are around GREAT and strong engineers and as our lead architect would say, ‘Stay with us, we will make you better.’”

And while all of these things are, in my experience, true, and having cool workspaces infuses day-to-day tasks with a certain energy, there is something far more important that Indeed identified as a common thread running through all of the top 50 companies. “A recurring theme across the employee reviews for these firms is the importance of a strong company culture and clear values,” a post on the site announcing the list explained.

Indeed, a strong community conscience has always been vital to Viacom’s self-image, and many employees praised  the many volunteer opportunities, an inclusive culture that values diversity, and the unexpected benefits that transcend the typical menu of health insurance policies, such as adoption assistance.

Viacom employees help clean up Central Park at Viacommunity Day 2017, the company’s annual day of community service.

While a constellation of factors influence how people feel about their jobs every day, there is a pervasive pride, throughout the comments on Indeed, of working for a company that is so vital to the modern media and entertainment landscape, and one that is adapting so well to it, with advanced data capabilities and audience measurement tools. As one commenter wrote, “The industry is going through a major restructure and this company is ahead.”

This recognition from Indeed is the latest in a long line of acknowledgements that the company has received for creating a supportive and attractive work environment. Last year, Fast Company named Viacom a top destination for work-life balance, Fatherly named us to its Great Workplaces for New Dads list, and Working Mother put the company on its 100 Best Companies list for the sixth consecutive year.