“We’ve Made a Lot of Progress at Viacom” – CEO Bob Bakish Touts Achievements at MoffettNathanson

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Growing viewership, building new management teams, finding efficiencies, delivering content on next-generation platforms. Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish sat down with Michael B. Nathanson at last week’s MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York City, where they discussed these and other ways that Viacom is strategically positioning itself to thrive in a rapidly evolving media landscape.

“I fundamentally believe we’ve made a lot of progress at Viacom in the last year or so,” Bakish said. “That starts with having a plan and laying it out for our teams, our employees, and quite frankly, the rest of the industry and the financial community. … For the last couple of quarters, we’ve seen consistent share growth, including in the last quarter. And in fact, we’re seeing improvement relative to last quarter and the current quarter we’re in. So that’s clear progress.”

Additional highlights from the conversation are below. Listen to the full exchange here.

Next-generation platforms and solutions are driving a huge potential growth market for Viacom

Viacom Digital Studios, announced late last year and launched in earnest at the recent Newfronts in New York, is just getting going, but has already stoked strong digital consumption, with video views up 110 percent year-over-year last month. This is just one part of a broad suite of digital initiatives – from vMVPD (virtual multichannel video programming distributor) distribution over Sling and DIRECTV NOW to deals with Telfonica (across Latin America), Telkomsel (Indonesia) and other mobile providers – that is positioning Viacom to evolve with its increasingly digital-first fanbase.

“So when we talk about next generation, we’re talking about vMVPDs. We’re talking about OTT (over the top). We’re talking about sort of AVOD (audio/visual on demand), in front of the wall, social, et cetera. And we have initiatives going in all of those spaces. And the reason we’re in all of those spaces is we believe that’s a very powerful complement to what we’re doing in the traditional space and is critical to driving growth.”

New management is driving ratings growth across the core television business

MTV is riding an unscripted boom to 10 straight months of ratings growth under network President Chris McCarthy, while ratings are up at BET behind a scripted programming push and at Comedy Central as Trevor Noah solidifies himself as a major voice in late-night.

“So, I feel good about our trajectory there, and in fact, again, when you met with advertisers and we did dinners with each of the agency holding companies over the last three weeks or so … what we typically heard … was, ‘wow, you guys made a lot of sort of promises and commitments when we saw you last year … And we were somewhat skeptical but it’s really incredible how far you’ve come and seeing these brands and we’re very excited about your upcoming slates,’ as are we, by the way,” Bakish said.

Paramount Pictures’ new management team is turning the studio around…

Under Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, the iconic movie studio has installed a new management team and reoriented its slate so that half of its films are co-branded with Viacom’s media networks. With A Quiet Place – the first film produced, marketed and distributed under the new team – rolling out to more than $300 million in worldwide box office receipts (so far), on a $20 million budget, the studio has plenty of momentum moving into the summer.

“And if you look at Paramount, we have a plan that management is totally bought into that is about, that addresses some of our historical problems and our historical problems were a slate construction that didn’t make sense, was not balanced, didn’t leverage the assets Viacom had and then frankly poor execution,” said Bakish “… look at the branded films, the first one in this kind of era is going to be a BET film shot by Tyler Perry [starring Tiffany Haddish] … That’s a film that we made at a very attractive price point, and it’s going to benefit from the BET brand, and that’s why Tyler came and left a perfectly good existence at Discovery and Lionsgate to unify his content output with Viacom … So we are going to rapidly take share, it’s going to be profitable share and we’re going to combine that with our television business and that’s going to take us back very quickly to a very nice business.”

…while the Paramount TV production studio evolves into a premium content force

With 19 network projects in the pipeline and hits such as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and TNT’s The Alienist stamping the studio’s premium content credentials, Paramount Television is expected to deliver $400 million in fiscal 2018 revenue.

“When suddenly Viacom split with CBS, the TV production went with CBS and therefore we had a kind of naked film-only studio, which is not a good place for a studio to be because very lumpy,” Bakish said. “Television tends to kind of flatten out the volatility year-to-year, as well as, of course add value. … Paramount is rapidly being appreciated as a place that makes hits in television too.”

Read More

From Props to Production Equipment, Nickelodeon Recycling Efforts Turn Trash into Treasure

The set is a key component of any television show. It’s a sometimes subtle, yet always vital backdrop upon which the characters play out their story. After all, what would Nickelodeon’s School of Rock be without a classroom setting, musical instruments and preppy school uniforms?

“Our sets are works of art,” said Patrick Garney, senior director of production for live-action series production at Nickelodeon, where he has worked since 2002.

Nick, like other Viacom brands, reuses these painstakingly designed sets wherever it can, so the keen-eyed may notice items from sketch-comedy classic All That tucked into the background of the network’s newer shows.

“We have an incredible reputation for making sure things get second, third and fourth lives,” said Garney. “Past that, we try incredibly hard to match items with local charities; lastly, we send them to charity thrift stores.”

If outdated items cannot be re-purposed for one of the aforementioned categories, the last resort  is to send them to the Dumpster. But Nickelodeon employees from various departments have worked to insert another option for old sets: donating the facades, along with any other useful material—props, hardware, etc.—to theater departments at Los Angeles public schools and select charities, an extra step that benefits not only the community and the environment, but, by cutting down on disposal fees, Nickelodeon and Viacom.

Lee Ann Larsen, executive vice president of production and live action for Nickelodeon, was impressed by the concept when a member of Garney’s team first pitched it to her.

“I immediately said yes,” said Larsen. “Our goal in the production department is always to be cognizant of the environment, and to encourage sustainability efforts.”

Read More

Channel 5 Cruises to First BAFTA Award With Jane McDonald Travel Doc

Channel 5’s Cruising With Jane McDonald is a British docu-series that features former cruise ship singer Jane McDonald as she tours lux ships around the world. Earlier this month, at the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Awards, the travel documentary snagged Channel 5’s first-ever BAFTA Award for Best Feature.

Read More

Paramount’s Gianopulos Moves Studio Forward Behind Movies, TV, and 106-Year-Old Library

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

As a movie studio with a diversified upcoming slate and powerful television production arm, reinforced with an iconic century-old library, Paramount Pictures is well positioned to thrive far into the future, according to President and CEO Jim Gianopulos.

The studio head, who has built a new management team since taking the helm at Paramount last year, sat down with CNN Money’s Dylan Byers at the Milken Institute Global Conference earlier this month to discuss the resurgent business.

“We’re content creators,” Gianopulos said. “We’re storytellers. For us, our primary focus is theatrical distribution as a studio, and, in television, the creation of television programming.”

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 25: Jim Gianopulos speaks onstage during the 2018 CinemaCon – Paramount Pictures special summer presentation held at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 25, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

Television Production Ramps Up As Diverse Theatrical Slate Debuts

Both sides of the business – television and theatrical – have powerful catalysts driving them. The Paramount Television production studio, which has grown rapidly behind a string of premium-content hits such as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, TNT’s The Alienist, and USA Network’s Shooter, is on track to reach $400 million in revenues this year.

The forthcoming theatrical slate, which has been rejiggered under the current management team, will include sequels, reboots, animated films, and tie-ins to other Viacom brands through its Paramount Players division. At last month’s CinemaCon, Gianopulos detailed this lineup, which stands out for its diverse offerings that will appeal to both mass and niche audiences.

“We have an old saying that’s always worked for us – make it for someone, or make it for everyone,” he said, citing the forthcoming Mission: Impossible – Fallout and recent smash hit A Quiet Place as projects with mass appeal.

Meanwhile, Book Club – set to drop in theaters this Friday with a headlining cast of Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen – has been tailor-made to appeal to an adult female demographic.

“For them, that is Star Wars,” he said. “That’s their movie. Something that people feel an identity to. They made this for me. This is something relevant and relatable to me. You can continue to make a broad variety of films, and in the process, be very successful.”

A Rich History That Continues to Build the Present

For all the buzz around the studio’s yet-to-be-released films, one of Paramount’s under-appreciated strengths is its deep content warehouse that stretches back to the dawn of the industry.

Read More

Trevor Noah on Trump, the Daily Show’s Purpose, and Planning for Choas, With CNN’s Brian Stelter

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

 

“I wake up most days terrified at the notion that Donald Trump is the most powerful president in the world,” Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah tells CNN Money’s Brian Stelter in an interview on Reliable Sources. “I also wake up most days acknowledging that he’s going to make me laugh. And that’s what’s difficult for me is that he’s an emotional paradox. It’s almost like there’s an asteroid headed toward the earth, but it’s shaped like a penis. I think I’m gonna die, but I know I’m gonna laugh.”

In the six-plus-minute interview excerpt shot on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah’s New York City set and posted above, Noah also compares Trump to an African dictator, explains how his team plans for the unplannable vagaries of life under the president, and provides insight into how he chooses the night’s stories from among seemingly limitless options.

And even though the show is the flagship of a network with “comedy” in its name, Noah sees its purpose as much more than just making people laugh. “When I first started at The Daily Show, I thought our purpose was just to make jokes about what’s happening, because that’s what the world felt like, it was a benign existence under Barack Obama,” he says. “I think, as the world comes to change, our purpose in that world changes. … As the world becomes less secure, that’s when comedy becomes more cutting, because it’s the release valve to that tension.”

Listen to the full interview here.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, which recently brought in four Webby and Webby People’s Voice Awards, is an important driver of the ratings surge at Comedy Central, which has started 2018 with four consecutive months of year-over-year ratings gains in the key adults-18-to-49 demo. Vicom recently signed a broad long-term strategic partnership with Noah’s Day Zero Productions that includes television, feature film, digital and short-form video content. Late last year, the network renewed Noah’s Daily Show hosting contract through 2022.

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.”

Read More

Viacom Launches Digital Studios at First NewFront, Ramping Up Online & Mobile Content Pipeline

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Laugh with Majah Hype, wake up with Nikki Glaser, cook with Snooki, get animated with JoJo – and do it all on your phone.

Viacom Digital Studios (VDS) is here, poised to deliver hundreds of hours of premium digital content that will transport digital native stars from BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon to the social and mobile platforms where their fans live.

This was the headline of Viacom’s spectacular first NewFront event earlier this week at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers, where the company marched confidently into the digital realm by detailing dozens of new short-form properties to feed its massive online social footprint of more than 850 million fans, elaborating on new content deals with Snap and Twitter, and announcing an expansion of its recently acquired VidCon conference to London this February.

“The launch of Viacom Digital Studios is an amazing opportunity to reimagine our iconic brands for a new generation of young, mobile-first audiences,” said VDS President Kelly Day. “We’re bringing the power and scale of Viacom’s global content engine and storytelling capabilities to entertain and engage our fans whenever and wherever they’re consuming content.”

VDS has been steadily ramping up since Day joined Viacom late last year, jolting year-over-year social video views and minutes viewed in the U.S. upward by 70 (to 4.3 billion) and 78 percent (to 4.7 billion), respectively.

The digital studio is a lynchpin of Viacom CEO Bob Bakish’s revitalization plan, as the company moves deliberately to expand its core television business onto next-generation platforms.

“… if you can think about all the time spent on mobile and all those devices out there, I think you quickly realize what a powerful growth engine that will be for our business,” Bakish told a crowd of investors at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in March.

While Viacom’s digital content will run across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and other channels, the company’s NewFront highlighted new global original content deals with Snap Inc. and Twitter.

Read More

Viacom Takes 5 Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards

Viacom took five categories (and earned one special recognition), at the 45th Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, with Nickelodeon, Logo TV and MTV snagging statuettes for dazzling short-form digital content, feature-length films and children’s television.

Under the Nickelodeon umbrella, perennial fan-favorite SpongeBob SquarePants was recognized for its superb animated storytelling with two awards and a special recognition for its creator, Stephen Hillenburg, for his impactful work in the animation and broadcast world. Nick Jr. was awarded for Girls In Charge, an inspirational PSA aimed at preschool girls. The spot features fierce girl power courtesy of Nick Jr. girl characters, like Dora from Dora the Explorer and Nella from Nella the Princess Knight.

MTV and Logo TV both earned accolades for distinguished digital storytelling. Logo TV’s harrowing documentary on renowned makeup artist and LGBT figure Kevyn Aucoin (Kevyn Aucoin: Beauty & The Beast In Me) topped the Outstanding Special Class Special category. MTV won for its work creating a PSA, Undocumented and Afraid, for Logo TV’s film Forbidden, a motivational and informing film centered on LGBT-immigrant issues.

Take a look at Viacom’s winning content:

Nickelodeon

SpongeBob SquarePants – Outstanding Children’s Animated Series

SpongeBob SquarePants – Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program (Tom Kenny, as SpongeBob SquarePants)

Daytime Emmy Awards Special Recognition

Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, earned a special recognition for his contributions to animation.

Nick Jr.

Nick Jr.’s Girls in Charge Campaign  Brand Image Campaign – Network or Program

Read More

Impactful Kalief Browder Story Wins Peabody Award for Best Documentary

Time: The Kalief Browder Story has won a coveted Peabody Award, along with eight other works that will be honored in the documentary category at the 77th annual Peabody Awards ceremony later this month.

Peabody Awards highlight ways that media can expand public knowledge, encourage empathy and support those in dire need of help, which Time: The Kalief Browder Story has certainly done.

The docuseries, which premiered last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), helped mobilize support from the community, launching a conversation about prisoners’ rights and the American judicial system, specifically that of New York City.

And this conversation is already inspiring action—such as “Raise the Age,” a bill signed into law by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April 2017. The legislation will take steps to prohibit the state from charging as adults and incarcerating 16- and 17-year-olds, barring extenuating circumstances.

“His death is here to teach us to save a generation of kids. It’s hard to watch, but important to see.”

Jay Z, executive producer, Time: The Kalief Browder Story

Such a law could have affected the trajectory of Kalief Browder’s life—at least, the last few years of it. Browder was arrested at 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent over three years incarcerated at New York City’s Rikers Island prison, where he was regularly beaten and taunted by fellow inmates and prison guards. Ultimately, Browder’s case was dropped due to lack of evidence and witnesses. But he hardly left prison a free man.

Stricken with PTSD from the physical and psychological torture he experienced at Rikers, Browder hanged himself on June 6, 2015.

Browder_Family_Photo_073

Kalief Browder as a child. Courtesy of Spike / The Browder family.

Jay Z, who served as the documentary’s executive producer, spoke about its powerful message last year at an event in Times Square.

“His death is here to teach us to save a generation of kids,” he said. “I say this about the movie. It’s hard to watch, but important to see.”

The documentary may have served as a catalyst for actual change—like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close the notoriously violent prison where Browder spent the last years of his life, and laws such as “Raise the Age.”

Courtesy of Peabody Awards.

The Peabody Awards will be held on May 19 in New York, hosted by Hasan Minhaj, writer and senior correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

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

Read More