Viacommunity Hosts a Screening of Selma in Honor of Black History Month

On Feb. 21, 40 high school students from New York City and neighboring public schools made their way to Viacom’s Times Square headquarters to celebrate Black History Month with a screening of Paramount’s critically acclaimed Selma, a crucial film about the African-American experience.

Viacommunity hosted the event, which featured members of The BEAT, Viacom’s employee resource group focused on the African-American experience, on a post-screening panel. To coordinate this celebration in honor of Black History Month, Viacom worked with nonprofit organizations The Opportunity Network and Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation (SASF), which provide academic support to students from underserved communities.

Selma depicts Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fight for equal voting rights during the Civil Rights Movement, a momentous part of American history. Paramount’s re-telling of this visceral moment encapsulates the spirit of Black History Month.

Students and Viacom employees at a screening of Paramount Pictures’ Selma in honor of Black History Month – Photo by Esthefania Rodriguez

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“We’re Focused on a Return to Growth,” Bob Bakish Tells Deutsche Bank Conference

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish sat with analyst Bryan Kraft at the Deutsche Bank Media, Telecom and Business Services Conference in Palm Beach, Florida last week. In an extended Q&A session, Bakish outlined Viacom’s wide-ranging growth initiatives, from sophisticated advanced advertising products, to the opportunities in mobile distribution, to the company’s strength outside of the United States.

“We spent 2017 really stabilizing the business, and now we’re focused on a return to growth,” Bakish said. “… We articulated a three-part plan associated with that, growing share and margins in our core business, accelerating our participation in next-generation platforms and solutions, and unlocking opportunities with synergies to the core that are outside of traditional media revenue streams.”

While Bakish looked firmly toward the future, he also summarized a few of Viacom’s many recent successes: MTV is in its 10th consecutive month of growth; BET’s ratings streak stands at three straight quarters; Paramount Network launched to both critical acclaim and ratings success in January; ratings at CMT, TV Land and VH1 continue to be strong.

Here are a few more highlights from Bakish’s conversation. You can listen to the full Q&A session here.

Viacom’s diverse demographics + diverse ad products = enormous opportunity

“… all our constituencies have embraced the flagship strategy and certainly that’s true in the ad community. We’re in a very enviable position in that we serve the full spectrum of demographics, really from preschoolers all the way up to, as I said, 25-54s. … But importantly, what you have to realize about our ad business is, yes, it’s partially ads or majority ads on linear television networks … but it’s also our advanced advertising business. And that’s around instilling data-driven approaches and alternate kind of orbits versus [potential] truck [purchasers] versus men 18 to 34 in a television-centric environment, and then all the way up through actual dynamic ad insertion, which is another element we’ve added as we’ve redone our MVPD deals this year [so that] we have access to insert at the consumer level.”

A cornerstone strategy drives growth internationally

“… [Viacom’s international cornerstone strategy] started with our creation of our joint venture in India, which we did in 2007, where we went on to launch a brand called Colors and sitting here today, it’s the number one. … We then went on to acquire Channel 5 in the UK about five years ago. That’s been a homerun and we acquired Telefe in Argentina, which is number one broadcaster in Argentina about a year ago and that’s been a homerun. So, you put that all together and you have a company that grew – our international division that grew, earnings, double digits ad revenue, double-digit affiliate revenue, double-digit ancillary revenue in the last quarter and earnings, let’s say very, very strong double digits in the last quarter and continues to be on a … strong track to additional growth.”

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Paramount Honors Director and Mentor to Stars, Boom Mic Inventor Dorothy Arzner

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Following a long tradition of naming buildings after pioneering women in film, Paramount Pictures has renamed its Dressing Room building after prolific director Dorothy Arzner.

The only working female director in the country in the 1930s, Arzner helmed films starring the glitterati of her day, including Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Maureen O’Hara, and Lionel Atwell; mentored the now legendary Francis Ford Coppola in his UCLA film school days; changed production sets forever with her invention of the indispensable boom microphone; and became the first woman director admitted into the Directors Guild of America.

1927: American film director Dorothy Arzner (1897 – 1979) and Alfred Gilks, her cinematographer, survey a scene as they stand by a camera on the set of her film, ‘Get Your Man’. Arzner is leaning on the camera and holding a combination megaphone and viewfinder. She was Hollywood’s only female director of the Thirties. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“We’re incredibly proud to honor Dorothy Arzner, who is one of the early pillars of Paramount’s success and an enormous part of its legacy,” said Paramount Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “As Paramount, and the industry as a whole, works to increase our efforts to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces, including our film sets, Dorothy serves as a beacon for that movement in filmmaking.”

Gianopulos joined Coppola at a naming ceremony for the Melrose Avenue building on Paramount’s Hollywood lot earlier this month, where the director remembered Arzner stuffing her hungry students with crackers and teaching them the nuances of getting the most out of actors on set.

Francis Ford Coppola and Jim Gianopulos attend the Building Dedication Ceremony in honor of Filmmaker Dorothy Arzner at Paramount Pictures Studios on March 1, 2018. (Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages).

“You’ll make it, I know. I’ve been around’,” Arzner apparently told a forlorn and starving Coppola step-sitting on the UCLA campus.

She was right – Coppola went on to direct dozens of films, including the Oscar-winning The Godfather, one of the most iconic films in Paramount’s deep library.

Arzner’s own 19-picture filmography includes The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The Bride Wore Red, and The Wild Party (on the set of which she cobbled together that first boom mic). She joins actresses Lucille Ball, Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, Edith Head, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Mae West; costume designer Carole Lombard; and former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing as Hollywood legends whose names grace Paramount buildings.

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Comedian Tiffany Haddish to Host the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards

The MTV Movie & TV Awards continue to forge a path of diversity, inclusion and all-around awesomeness. Last year, the network tentpole revamped its award parameters, doing away with gendered categories and doling out buckets of golden popcorn to those who helped produce the best of film, television and digital media.

This year, Girls Trip actress Tiffany Haddish will host the ceremony.

Haddish is pumped, to say the least. The star shared a video with her 1.8 million Instagram followers to announce the news. “It’s gonna be off the chain,” said Haddish. “Because you know why? I’m hosting! And you know what that means ― it’s gonna be hilarious.”

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Critics Rave Over Paramount’s Annihilation, “The Finest Sci-Fi in Years”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Anchored by a visually stunning fantasyland setting, a cerebral cocktail of plot and theme, and a fierce cast of women warrior-scientists, Paramount Pictures’ Annihilation hits U.S. theaters today to a flood of positive critical reaction.

“In just about every respect, it’s the finest cinematic sci-fi in years—or, at least, since [director Alex] Garland’s prior Ex Machina,” wrote The Daily Beast’s Nick Schager, echoing the popular sentiment for this adaptation of  Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name.

The premise is simple enough: a meteorite crashes into a Florida lighthouse, unleashing a mysterious rippling force field dubbed the Shimmer. This dancing wall of color and motion slowly expands, and the zone within changes, like a puncture in reality, filling with enormous genetically mutated animals, overgrown plants sized and shaped like humans, and other oddities alternately novel and terrifying. Eleven expeditions have entered – only one person has returned: Kane (Oscar Isaac), the husband of ex-soldier/biologist Lena (Natalie Portman). He is diseased and dying and has been reduced to a sub-human state of mumbling and fear.

Partly in hopes of saving him, Lena joins an all-woman expeditionary force – led by psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and also including another doctor, Anya (Gina Rodriguez), physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson), and anthropologist Cass (Tuva Novotny) – on an exploration and recovery mission. Within the Shimmer, they lose communication with the outside world. Their compasses and other instruments fail. As they trek through the increasingly wild landscape, the DNA mutations transforming the forest creatures infest their bodies, their memories fail, they lose their sense of space and time.

What happens between there and the final wrenching scenes has critics elated. “Annihilation is a ferocious, feral, female-centric update of fearsome monster classics like The Thing and Alien,” writes Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter.

Here’s a deeper look at what the critics love most about Annihilation:

It’s smart

“This is a serious, considered film,” writes Richard Lawson in Vanity Fair.

And it is. At once a thriller, a science fiction thought piece, a horror flick, and a tale of environmental catastrophe – while hinting at humanity’s ultimate helplessness against a huge and ruthless universe – Annihilation manages to accomplish many things at once with an expansive and intricate plot.

“For those willing to put in the effort, Annihilation achieves that rare feat of great genre cinema, where audiences are not merely thrilled … but also feel as if their minds have been expanded along the way,” writes Peter Debruge in Variety.

It’s beautiful

Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Annihilation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance.

Wandering this other-Earth burbling dreamlike within the Shimmer, the explorers amble over a landscape that resembles some videogame fantasy world, where predators roar with the screams of past victims and the intensifying light elides the distinction between illusion and reality.

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“The Fallout of All Your Good Intentions Is Coming” in Paramount’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The message is cryptic, the voice scratchy and resigned to whatever befalls him – the man in captivity has a message for Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise).

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it. I wonder, did you ever choose not to? The end you always feared is coming, and the blood will be on your hands – the fallout of all your good intentions.”

This is the first full trailer for Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth installment in the studio’s leaping, punching, gun-fighting, vehicle-chasing adventure saga.

This time, there will be: betrayal, Paris, packed dance clubs, remote armed outposts, boats cascading through sewers, a man thrown through a bathroom mirror, and at least one game of chicken between a Hunt-driven helicopter and a semi. And plenty more.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout, directed by Christopher McQuarrie and starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, Wes Bentley and Frederick Schmidt, will be in theaters July 27.

Paramount Viacommunity Film Vies for Top Spot at Boston College Festival

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

​Each year, thousands of Viacom employees around the world unite for Viacommunity Day, helping to rebuild and revitalize their local communities with a series of service projects. At Paramount Pictures – which for the past two years has had the highest percentage of employees from any Viacom company division participating in projects – the day has special resonance.

To commemorate the titanic efforts of their employees at last year’s event, Paramount’s social responsibility team put together A Day for Unity, a rousing video recap of the landscaping, painting, organizing, and volunteering at zoos, community centers, soup kitchens and food distribution centers that took place across the Los Angeles area on Viacommunity Day 2017.

Paramount Viacommunity 2017 Video from Viacom on Vimeo.

This video testament to Paramount’s efforts is now part of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship International Corporate Citizenship Film Festival, an annual event that honors the best in corporate social responsibility. Click here by Feb. 19 to vote for Paramount’s submission.

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.

The Best of 2017: Looking Back on a Year of Leadership, Innovation, Social Responsibility and Arresting Architecture

Viacom is off to a sensational start for 2018: we soared across our brands (especially CMT and Comedy Central).

But as we move into the new year, it’s worth looking back at the most popular blog posts of 2017, each of which highlighted a different part of Viacom’s business. Many touch upon themes that Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, includes in his vision for success: leading the industry in diverse, innovative storytelling; focusing on our “Flagship Six” core brands; creating a socially responsible company culture housed in a visually progressive workspace.

Check out the top 10 blog posts below, which highlight some of Viacom’s best content, the talent that brought it to life, and the remarkable spaces they created it in.

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Paramount’s “Downsizing” Delivers “a Big Movie for Big People” in Miniaturized Future World

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

“You know how Hollywood doesn’t make original movies anymore?” asks Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. “Well, Downsizing is here to fix that.”

The movie indeed presents as a highly original concept: an everyone-wins-the-lotto fantasia, a hypothetical near-future where every middle-class worker drone with fifty thousand in the bank can shrink themselves and relocate to a miniaturized consumerist paradise where everything is cheap and easy. And the shrunken crowds, with their shrunken environmental footprint, get to save the world in the process.

That’s what gets our attention, but what keeps it is a vividly accurate parable on class struggle and the inherent unfairness of global imbalances in rights and status. This turn happens when hero Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) – left behind by his wife (Kristen Wiig), discontented with his new world’s opulence – stumbles into a miniature tenement outside the walls of diminutive mansion-dotted Leisureland and discovers an underclass of refugees who have been downsized against their will.

Galvanized, Safranek sets off to find the meaning that financially amping up his lifestyle could not deliver. Cue the critics:

Downsizing … is the rarest thing in today’s movie industry: a big movie for big people — adults, you could call them,” writes Jake Coyle in the The Associated Press.

He’s not the only one who was impressed. Here are some highlights:

Director Alexander Payne continues his record of excellence

“It’s hard to say what’s better about the first half of Alexander Payne’s wonderfully weird – or is it weirdly wonderful? – Downsizing: the audacity of its premise, or the delicious skill with which Payne executes that premise, detail by comically ingenious detail,” Jocelyn Noveck writes for The Associated Press.

Payne has directed six previous feature films, including Paramount’s Academy Award-nominated Election and Nebraska, as well as the Academy Award-winning Sideways and The Descendants (both won for Best Adapted Screenplay).

Matt Damon and Director Alexander Payne on the set of Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.

“Alexander Payne is one of those rare filmmakers who’s never made a bad movie, and he’s not about to start now,” writes Micah Mertes in the Omaha World-Herald. “…in its sense of place, in its existential dread, in its deadpan comedy and late-inning optimism, Downsizing is an on-brand continuation of a career still running strong more than two decades in.”

Supporting actress Hong Chau is remarkable

Chau, who plays a Vietnamese refugee shrunken against her will and forced to labor as a Leisureland maid after losing a leg to gangrene, delivers a Golden Globe-nominated performance as a supporting actress.

“Hong Chau, best known from Inherent Vice and HBO’s Treme, achieves nothing less than an acting triumph,” writes Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. “Her Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild are just the start of the honors coming her way.”

Hong Chau plays Ngoc Lan Tran and Matt Damon plays Paul Safranek in Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.

One thing that drew Chau to the role was a high-concept framework that acted as an approachable vector for important issues.

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