5 Questions With VidCon Co-Founder and Chairman Hank Green

VidCon, the world’s biggest conference for online video, was held from June 22 – 24, and Viacom showed up in a big way. Paramount Network hosted a panel on the power of storytelling. Nickelodeon held activations around Double Dare and Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, plus a special appearance by JoJo Siwa. MTV, BET, Comedy Central and Velocity were also represented. Additionally, Viacom held a panel on the power of youth to create change to debut Viacom’s new global pro-social initiative, Generation Change. For this 5 Questions, we spoke to VidCon co-founder and chairman Hank Green to hear about the vision behind the event and where it’s headed next.

Video by Viacom Catalyst.

5 Questions With CMT and TV Land General Manager Frank Tanki

June has been hectic for CMT and TV Land. Season 5 of TV Land’s original scripted series Younger aired earlier this month, along with the CMT Music Awards. And the highly anticipated mid-season premiere of Nashville on CMT aired on June 7. There are only a few episodes left until the series finale in July.

To talk about all this and more, we sat down with Frank Tanki, General Manager of CMT and TV Land. He shares his thoughts on the ratings success at both networks, and what fans can expect next.

Video by Viacom Catalyst.

Viacom Wins 90 Awards at PromaxBDA 2018

Viacom brands totalled 90 North America PromaxBDA Promotion, Marketing and Design Awards at a gala in New York on June 14.

Nickelodeon (21 awards), Comedy Central (27), the Paramount Network (7), Paramount Channel (6), BET (2), MTV (4), Viacom Velocity (6), Viacom Catalyst (1), Viacom18 (10) and VIMN (5) were widely represented across the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards in various categories for domestic and international productions.

Additionally, PromaxBDA honored Debra Lee, BET’s long-time former CEO, with its Lifetime Achievement Award for “her decades of achievement in our entertainment and media industry.”

Congratulations to Lee and to all of Viacom’s PromaxBDA winners and shortlist honorees. Take a look at the full list of winners for each division below:

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Ratings and Viewership Jump Double-Digits for MTV Movie & TV Awards

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Ratings and viewership soared for this year’s MTV Movie & TV Awards, as the network strategically shifted the air date to a June Monday and commissioned the red-hot Tiffany Haddish as host.

Across 10 Viacom-owned networks, 3.371 million viewers (a 21 percent increase over 2017), watched as Millie Bobby Brown pushed back at bullies and Haddish spoofed the year’s top films and TV shows. Viewers in key demographics drove the ratings increase, with the 18-34 group surging from a 1.85 rating last year to 2.24 this year –  a 21 percent jump – and those 18-49 pushing from a 1.63 to 2.04 share, an increase of 25 percent. Looking solely at MTV and VH1, the numbers grew even more explosively, with a 30 percent jump among viewers 18-34 and a 35 percent rise in the 18-49 demo.

The buzz carried over to social, where the MTV Movie & TV Awards beat the World Cup for most social show on television (per Nielsen), nearly doubling last year’s total and setting show records with more than 83 million streams (and counting). #MTVAwards trended No. 1 in the U.S. and globally over the course of the two-hour telecast.

In order to maximize the show’s potential audience, MTV made a few calculated decisions when choosing its airdate. First, they moved the awards from their traditional Sunday broadcast to Monday, when MTV and VH1 tend to draw strong viewership.

Second, MTV pushed the show down the calendar from May to June, slotting it in the midst of the June pre-nomination Emmy-voting window. This strategic positioning may have encouraged star turnout – Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Chris Pratt, as well as cast members of Riverdale, Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Stranger Things all accepted their Golden Popcorn buckets onstage at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar. This star power, in turn, could have drawn fans.

“The date change was a draw for networks and streaming platforms, and talent looking for opportunities to get their content out there during this key window,” MTV, VH1 and Logo General Manager Amy Doyle told Indiewire’s Michael Schneider before the awards aired. “And you’ll see that in full effect when watching the show.”

But the crisply edited, entertaining show drew a lot of attention on its own merits.

“After sitting through countless bloated awards shows indulging themselves for three or four hours at a time, the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards were a genuine relief — and in a delightful twist, even genuinely heartwarming,” wrote Variety’s Caroline Framke. “Airing Monday night after taping Saturday, the edited ceremony ran just two hours long but managed to squeeze in 15 awards, two musical performances, and several pre-taped sketches featuring host Tiffany Haddish. … By the night’s end, it was hard to understand why other awards show don’t follow suit more often.”

“… it was the best version of this show I’ve ever watched,” added Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich.

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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.”

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 a dreaded Decepticon. 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.

American Woman’s Jen Bartels and Yellowstone’s Kelsey Asbille Give Back on Viacommunity Day

Jen Bartels [L], who will play a role in Paramount Network’s forthcoming American Woman, and Kelsey Asbille, who will appear in the channel’s Yellowstone, joined Viacom employees in New York City for the company’s annual Viacommunity Day.

For the past 22 years, Viacom’s annual worldwide Viacommunity Day has given back to those in need. On Friday, April 20, thousands of employees across Viacom and its brands once again volunteered to make a difference in communities around the world, from supporting L.A.’s homeless to organizing gun-safety projects in Florida to restoring outdated facilities in New York City.

Joining the Viacom employees for one project at their Times Square headquarters was talent from Paramount Network’s forthcoming originals: Jen Bartels of American Woman (premiering June 7) and Kelsey Asbille of Yellowstone (June 20). The pair sat down with the other volunteers to decorate bags that students at Free Arts NYC can use to carry home the art they create in the program.

“Thank you to Viacom for introducing me to Free Arts NYC. It’s really important for the youth to have access to arts in their daily lives. I definitely want to get involved in their mentorship programs.” – Kelsey Asbille (Paramount Network’s Yellowstone)

Free Arts NYC is important in New York City, where one in three public schools lacks an art room. The program partners with schools in these communities to “create access to the arts and exposure to creative careers” for students. They do this by offering free art days for students and families as well as art parties and free museum days.

Bartels shared that she was, “really proud to be a part of a community like Viacom that takes time out to support others, especially our youth. Sharing our creativity to brighten the lives of the children of Free Arts NYC was extremely fun and fulfilling.”

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Viacom Takes Five Outer Critics Circle Awards, SpongeBob Leads Musicals with Four

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

After securing 12 Tony Award nominations apiece last week, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical and Mean Girls have each clinched at least one Outer Critics Circle Award.

The Nickelodeon production, which plants the network’s iconic anthropomorphic sponge in the middle of his first Broadway caper, took four awards – more than any other musical – including top honors for best new musical. Paramount Pictures’ and Broadway Video’s co-produced Mean Girls, based upon the 2004 movie of the same name, earned an additional honor, bringing Viacom’s total Outer Critics Circle count to five.

The announcements come as Viacom moves more deliberately into the live event space, translating its brands’ beloved characters and stories into immersive experiences that transcend the screen.

Here are the categories in which the Outer Critics Circle judges awarded top honors to Viacom’s Broadway musicals:

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS THE MUSICAL

  • Outstanding New Broadway Musical
  • Best New Score – Jonathan Coulton, David Bowie and Brian Eno, Plain White T’s, T.I., Domani Harris, and Darwin Quinn, Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco, Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman, Yolanda Adams, The Flaming Lips, Sara Bareilles, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Lady Antebellum, John Legend, They Might Be Giants, Andy Paley and Tom Kenny, Derek Drymon, Mark Harrison, Stephen Hillenburg, and Blaise Smith, and Tom Kitt
  • Best Actor in a Musical – Ethan Slater
  • Best Director of a Musical – Tina Landau*

Danny Skinner as Patrick Star and Ethan Slater as SpongeBob SquarePants. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2017.

MEAN GIRLS

  • Outstanding Book of a Musical – Tina Fey

Broadway awards season is just ramping up – both musicals are still eligible for multiple honors from the Drama Desk Awards, which will announce its winners on June 3, and the Tony Awards, which will air live on CBS on June 10.

*Tied with Bart Sher, My Fair Lady

SpongeBob, Mean Girls Lead Tony Nominees With 12 Apiece as Viacom Ramps Up Live Events Business

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

After racking up impressive totals in last week’s Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards nominations, Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical and Paramount Pictures’ and Broadway Video’s co-produced Mean Girls have tied at the top of this year’s Tony Award nominations, with 12 apiece, including Best Musical.

The impressive totals among the best of Broadway showcase the ability of Viacom brands to connect with audiences across a range of formats as the company moves deliberately into the live events space under CEO Bob Bakish. As Viacom branches out beyond its core television and film business, each of its six flagship brands will host live events this year, including Comedy Central’s Clusterfest in San Francisco, Nickelodeon’s Slimefest in Chicago, and the BET Experience in Los Angeles.

The pair of musicals, both of which sprang from Viacom’s deep intellectual property library, also earned the top nominations from the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards. SpongeBob earned 11 nominations from each institution, while Mean Girls, which is based on the 2004 Paramount movie of the same name, earned 10 Drama Desk and eight Outer Critics Circle considerations.

The full lists of nominations for each award show is below. 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.

TONY AWARDS – The 72nd annual Tony Awards will air live on CBS on Sunday, June 10 at 8 p.m. ET

Best Musical

Mean Girls

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Ethan Slater, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Best Performance by an actress in a leading Role in a Musical

Taylor Louderman, Mean Girls

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Grey Henson, Mean Girls

Gavin Lee, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Ashley Park, Mean Girls

Best Book of a Musical

Tina Fey, Mean Girls

Kyle Jarrow, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin, Mean Girls

Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler & Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper & Rob Hyman, John Legend, Panic! at the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants, T.I., Domani & Lil’C for SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Scott Pask, Finn Ross and Adam Young, Mean Girls

David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Gregg Barnes, Mean Girls

David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Kevin Adams, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Brian Ronan, Mean Girls

Walter Trarbach and Mike Dobson, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Best Direction of a Musical

Tina Landau, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Casey Nicholaw, Mean Girls

Best Choreography

Christopher Gattelli, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Casey Nicholaw, Mean Girls

Best Orchestrations

John Clancy, Mean Girls

Tom Kitt, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

SpongeBob SquarePants – The Broadway Musical for Everyone

DRAMA DESK AWARDS – TheaterMania will present the 63rd Annual Drama Desk Awards at 8:00 p.m. ET on June 3, 2018 at New York’s Town Hall

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Paramount’s Slate of Sequels, Animation, and Cross-Viacom Films Roars to Life at CinemaCon

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

One of the most shocked-into-silence moments for the audience at Paramount Pictures’ CinemaCon presentation came when Tom Cruise, hero of five previously released Mission: Impossible films, recapped the intensity and challenge of conducting a freefall stunt for the franchise’s forthcoming sixth installment.

“Each take is like running an 800-meter sprint,” Cruise said. “We did 106 takes.”

This blunt understatement captures just one extraordinary moment in one forthcoming film from Paramount, the resurgent studio that over the course of that two-hour presentation unveiled or confirmed new installments to its cherished franchises, sequels to some of its most popular films from new and antique vintage, an aggressive Viacom co-branded slate through its Paramount Players division, a trio of animated adventures, and new films based upon a longstanding and expanded partnership with Hasbro.

“We’re laying the foundation…to deliver to you films for every possible audience for years to come,” Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, who has spent the past year building a new management team for the studio, told the audience.

As we zoom (buckled up) toward the July 27 release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Paramount confirmed that many of its other most beloved franchises will soon get a new installment. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton will return in a new Terminator movie next November. And Transformers, which has delivered five more or less contiguous sequels, will, as previously announced, dogleg off into Bumblebee, which hits theaters this Dec. 21.

Director Travis Knight showed off the first Bumblebee clip at the event, telling the audience, “I wanted to return to the essences of what made the Transformer franchise so impactful right from the beginning: character, emotion, spectacle and explosions, lots and lots of explosions.”

Many other films will get their first sequel, including the recently released hit A Quiet Place, 2013’s World War Z, 1988’s Coming to America (look for Coming 2 America), and, as previously confirmed, 1986’s Top Gun, which also stars original Maverick Cruise.

And before he drops a fourth Cloverfield movie on us at some as-yet-to-be-announced future point, J.J. Abrams’ Overlord will transport moviegoers into a bizarro version of behind-enemy-lines World War II on Oct. 26.

Beyond the realm of the sequel, the studio will drop fans into the labrynthian world of Dungeons and Dragons and the sci-fi realm of Micronauts, both through the studio’s partnership with Hasbro (the same partnership behind Paramount’s Transformers and G.I. Joe movies).

Other standalone projects will pit assassin Will Smith against a younger cloned version of himself in Gemini Man, and cast Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as the overwhelmed adoptive parents of three in Instant Family.

Tapping Viacom’s deep content well to co-produce Paramount films has been a priority under CEO Bob Bakish, and the studio confirmed that one of Nickelodeon’s most resiliently popular characters, SpongeBob SquarePants, will return for his third big-screen adaptation, It’s A Wonderful Sponge, in 2020. The film will be one of three newly announced releases on the animation division’s slate, joining Luck – which exposes the millennia-old battle between organizations of good and bad luck – and Monster on the Hill, set in an alternative world of wrestling monsters. Additionally, the previously announced Wonder Park will debut next March.

Other top Viacom brands are joining Nickelodeon in collaborating with Paramount, through the Paramount Players division led by Brian Robbins and formed to further integrate the brands with the movie studio. In association with MTV, Eli, the story of a boy being treated for a rare disease in a clinic-cum-haunted-prison, will roll out in January 2019. BET will reconstitute the 2000 hit What Women Want with What Men Want, portraying a frustrated female sports agent who gains the power of mind-reading. Paramount Players is also working on Nickelodeon’s live-action Dora the Explorer and Are You Afraid of the Dark, both slated for 2019 release.

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