Bakish: Today’s Viacom, Focused on Execution, Delivering Progress

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

On Tuesday, Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish sat down with Activision Blizzard Studios Co-President Stacey Sher for a panel moderated by Fortune’s Andrew Nusca at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech Conference in Aspen, Colorado. The topic was “the future of entertainment,” and Bakish delivered a broad overview of how Viacom not only fit into that future, but was actively shaping it with a focused strategy, an invigorated leadership team, and a series of initiatives to broaden and modernize its business.

Here are a few highlights from Bakish’s remarks, emphasizing how Viacom is repositioning itself to thrive as an independent company within a rapidly changing and consolidating industry. You can watch the full remarks below.

Step 1: have a plan

“I was given the opportunity to run Viacom roughly a year and a half ago. I’m a big believer in you have to have a plan. … We rolled out a plan. Plan had number of elements to it, probably central to it, which will relate to our conversation, was this notion of flagship brands. That had to do with prioritization and true multi-platform expression. … The other thing was you need to have a killer management team. It’s another place where the company hadn’t changed much. Made significant changes on the network side of the business, really completely overhauled the Paramount team from the top down, and then we got to work executing. If you look at what’s happened in the quarters since, I describe Viacom as not a light switch, but a story of incremental progress against a destination.”

Step 2: execute

“If you look at our U.S. networks and audience share, you’ll see that we’ve consistently grown audience share. You look at a brand like MTV, which had a ratings decline in the ten percent for five years running. Now, five quarters in, we’ve consistently grown ratings every quarter. That’s a function of a different strategy and a different team and focusing on execution.”

As competition grows, Viacom benefits by building upon its content production expertise – and profiting off this competition by producing their content

Again, with what we call the tech companies coming in, do you have some incremental competition? Yes, you do. But at the same time you have a series of demand that needs to be filmed. Take Paramount Television, which is the television production side of Paramount. It didn’t exist four years ago. Today, or this fiscal year, it’ll do $400 million of revenue and it’s producing hits. It’s producing hits like 13 Reasons Why for Netflix, like The Alienist for the Turner networks, like the upcoming Jack Ryan series for Amazon, which will drop at the end of August. There’s fantastic opportunity to feed that ecosystem. At the same time, we look at our IP that we’re developing in house and we do think about, “Is this better as a linear network show on an owned and operated network, i.e., I don’t know, Nickelodeon, or is it better as a studio production, branded studio production for a third-party platform?”

Continue to drive growth through great content – both with new ideas and iconic IP

… we are mining franchises. Part of it is, sure, we’re creating new product that didn’t exist before. If you look at Paramount as an example, you have a film like A Quiet Place. Different idea, great characters in it, great storytelling, great execution, including focusing on how much it cost to make, and a great result. You also have a film like Mission: Impossible, which premiered in Paris last week, will open in the U.S. in two weeks. It is really an extraordinary film. … Yesterday, we announced that we’re taking the Rugrats franchise. It’s probably a franchise most of you have heard about. Nickelodeon franchise. We’re bringing that back in a new iteration, both for feature film and for episodic video, i.e. television, and we’ll do a whole bunch of digital native stuff. It no doubt will show up in our experiential space as it comes to life. It’s really mining those opportunities, pursuing some different business models, but making sure consumers have access and using that combination to ultimately drive growth, which is at the end of the day what I’m focused on, which is making Viacom once again grow.

Embrace technology to drive growth

At the same time, we’re using an extraordinary amount of technology in the, I’ll call it, monetization space. For example, when you look at advertising sales or what we’ve historically called advertising sales, Viacom is at the forefront of data-driven advertising in television. … Starting a year and a half ago, in every affiliate renewal we did, and we’ve renewed or extended well over half the sub-base in the U.S. by now, we incorporated the provision for dynamic ad insertion. We’re now able to insert dynamically in 90 percent of [video-on-demand] homes in the U.S. and in the two largest cable operators in the U.S. in a portion of the national avails.

Operate at (the appropriate) scale

[In answer to a question from Fortune’s Adam Lashinksky: The conventional wisdom is that Netflix, Apple, Amazon, are spending billions and billions of dollars, and therefore you and others your size can’t compete. Do you think that conventional wisdom is wrong? If so, why or how?]: “Yeah, I think it is wrong. The reason I’ll say that is it’s overly simplistic. Because if you think of scale, which is at the root of a lot of these arguments, there’s plenty of examples of scale where there’s actually no value to the combination. We see that today in some assets that own both media assets and distribution, but there isn’t really a lot of crossover. Look, I’d say is there scale or is there relevant scale. The other thing is, and I learned this because I ran our business outside the U.S. for 10 years … Those are places where we had a one percent share, so we didn’t have scale. We had to figure out how could we act like we had more scale? Those were doing things like partnering and creating ad sales, houses, and the like. That’s creating virtual scale. In a world where, yes, people are spending extraordinary amounts of money … By the way, we spent about five billion dollars on content, so we’re not exactly irrelevant in that regard, and we have relationships with leading creatives in front of the screen, behind the screen, in feature film, in episodic television, and, yes, in digital native. … I think there is an opportunity to be more nimble in this regard and not be vertically integrate and, frankly, serve a lot of different demand.

In an unpredictable, changing landscape, the only thing you can do is execute

[Answering the moderator’s question of whether Viacom would be independent a year from now]: “Who knows what the future will bring? My guess is, yes, we will be independent a year from now. We’re certainly executing in that regard. We definitely have the full support of our board. We’re talking about a number of interesting ideas, both organic and inorganic, but we’ll just have to see how the whole ecosystem plays out.”

Nickelodeon Artists Pin their San Diego Comic-Con Dreams to Life

Imagine bringing your childhood obsession or your favorite cartoon to life in pin form, and then having it sold as an exclusive, limited-edition collectible at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) to thousands of adoring fans. That’s what happened when Nickelodeon Animation artists based out of the Burbank, California studio competed in the office’s first-ever SDCC Enamel Pin Design Contest.

From art directors to production coordinators to interns, Nickelodeon animation artists created and submitted more than 100 designs for vibrant enamel pins to be sold at Nickelodeon’s popular booth on the SDCC show floor.

Featuring pin designs by Nickelodeon employees Morgan Bell, Cynthia Avila, Rachel Forman, Colton Davis, Kate Coffey and Samantha Armiger.

Here are the six winners whose designs Nick selected for manufacturing:

Morgan Bell, Production Assistant, Shimmer and Shine

Cynthia Avila, Production Coordinator, Rise of the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles

Rachel Forman, Script Coordinator, Shimmer and Shine

Colton Davis, Production Assistant, SpongeBob SquarePants

Kate Coffey, 3D Environmental Artist, Amusement Park

Samantha Armiger, Production Assistant, Nickelodeon Animation Culture and Digital Community

See each winning pin below:

A Double Dare-themed pin designed by Rachel Forman, script coordinator, Shimmer and Shine.

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Fourteen Years Later and Not a Day Older, Rugrats Return to TV, Theater

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Over the course of a nine-season, 13-year television run that also included three motion pictures, Nickelodeon’s beloved Rugrats crawled and waddled their way to four Daytime Emmy Awards and a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Now, the beloved tykes are returning to both television and movie theaters via Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures’ Paramount Players division. This cross-brand collaboration, which will maximize Rugrats’ reach across platforms and among varied audiences, is Viacom’s latest effort to tap the value of its deep intellectual property well by fully activating the power of its brand ecosystem in support of marquee franchises and talent.

Rugrats is hands-down one of the most celebrated cartoons in TV history, and we are thrilled for a whole new audience to meet these iconic characters in brand-new adventures,” said Viacom Media Networks COO and Nickelodeon Interim President Sarah Levy. “What was true in 1991 when the original show premiered is still true today: kids are fascinated with the world of babies. We can’t wait for today’s kids to meet Tommy, Chuckie and pals.”

The 26-episode comeback season is already under production at Nickelodeon’s Burbank studio, under the supervision of original creators and series executive producers Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó and Paul Germain. The as-yet-untitled fourth Rugrats movie, slated for a November 13, 2020 release, will be a live-action film with CGI characters.

Nickelodeon’s vault holds some of the most iconic names in children’s entertainment, and the network is moving deliberately to resurrect select properties that resonate with today’s audiences, both on Nick’s networks and on third-party platforms. Last year’s Hey Arnold! special sent the Hillwood crew back to television, and an updated Blue’s Clues series is in the works, along with special events featuring fan favorites Rocko’s Modern Life and Invader Zim. Through a studio model that is proliferating across Viacom, Nick will also produce two full animated seasons of infectiously positive teenage hotdog Pinky Malinky for Netflix.

Rugrats, which last aired new episodes in 2004, has always proved popular with moviegoers. The trio of Paramount Pictures-distributed films – The Rugrats Movie, Rugrats in Paris: The Movie, and Rugrats Go Wild – grossed nearly $300 million in total box office between 1998 and 2003. The forthcoming film will be the seventh project announced by Paramount Players, which develops and produces co-branded feature films with Viacom Media Networks.

“Now feels like the ideal time to reintroduce this iconic cast of characters to a whole new generation of young fans,” said Paramount Players President Brian Robbins. “Kids who grew up with Tommy Pickles and the Rugrats crew will now be able to share that experience with their own children.”

Nick International Roars for Change: Together for Good Wildlife Special

Lions, giraffes, elephants…oh my!

Kids interested in learning about endangered species can watch Together for Good Wildlife Special, in which Breanna Yde of Nick’s School of Rock guides viewers on a journey through Uganda. On the tour, she discovers key conservation and environmental challenges, and hears from heroes who work daily to protect at-risk wildlife including lions, giraffes, rhinoceroses, elephants and chimpanzees. Digital vignettes supplement the story, creating a vivid, immersive world.

The special was produced through a partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation and Nick International’s social responsibility initiative, Together for Good. The goal is to raise awareness about endangered wildlife and act as a call to action, using Nickelodeon’s globally recognized brand to empower kids to become change-makers.

Nickelodeon star Breanna Yde guides viewers on a journey through Uganda in Nickelodeon International’s Together For Good Wildlife Special, Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon International.

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Viacom Earns 29 Primetime Emmy Award Nominations

The 70th annual Primetime Emmy® Awards nominations announced this morning included a total of 29 nominations for Viacom-produced programming across linear and digital platforms.

The nods honor VH1’s continued, standout creativity for its groundbreaking reality series RuPaul’s Drag Race, which earned a total of 12 nominations including the 3rd nomination for host RuPaul (who won for the category in 2016 and 2017) and two nominations for the companion series RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked.

Comedy Central’s six nominations include two nominations for The Daily Show, which appears in the outstanding talk series for the first time since Trevor Noah took over as host. Last year’s short form variety winner The Daily Show: Between The Scenes was nominated for the second consecutive year. As well, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences nominated South Park for outstanding animated series for the 17th time ahead of its 22nd season premiere in September.

Paramount Network’s first original series Waco notched three nominations, while Lip Sync Battle earned a nod for outstanding reality series for the third year in a row.

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Global & Netherlands LGBT Research, Young Americans’ Political Empowerment, Kids in Their Own Words and More: Viacom Global Insights, July Edition

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

June was Pride Month – and to celebrate, we have stories on LGBT acceptance around the world as well as in the Netherlands. Other new insights include young Americans’ rising political empowerment, global kids in their own words, how age impacts social media behavior, and taking TV away from consumers to reveal its role in their lives. As always, on our blog you can find these and all our stories in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.

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Going Places: Viacom Intern to Full Time Success Stories Features Howard Tseng

Howard is a Campaign Activation & Branded Content Coordinator at WHOSAY, Viacom’s recently-acquired talent & influencer marketing company. Prior to obtaining this role, he was a Coordinator in Viacom’s Distribution & Business Development team and has also interned in MTV Integrated Marketing (Velocity) for two semesters: fall of 2015 and spring of 2016.

Howard Tseng, Coordinator, WHOSAY, started off as a Viacom intern in 2015. Now, he’s a full time employee.

Campus to Career: Hey Howard! Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you landed here at Viacom?

Howard Tseng: I attended CUNY Baruch and studied advertising and marketing. While I had several internships throughout school in the music industry, I wanted to get a better understanding of the media and entertainment business as a whole. Viacom felt like the perfect company for me, since many of our brands involve both music and television. I was super excited to get my first internship at Viacom, and realized it was a great fit for me early on.

Viacom is a great place to explore your interests across the entertainment landscape. Do you have any advice for interns who are less sure exactly what they want out of their internships or careers?

Ask questions! Asking thoughtful questions about what your department does and the impact it has on Viacom’s overall strategic goals works two-fold: it gives you deeper knowledge of your own department, and helps you understand more about what other teams do within the company. Networking and informational meetings with other employees never hurts, too.

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Nickelodeon’s ‘Double Dare’ Reboot Is Most-Viewed Series on Kids’ TV in 2018

Nickelodeon’s Double Dare attracted an average of 1.4 million viewers during its premiere week—making it the most-viewed series on kids’ TV this year.

In an indication of the reboot’s multi-generational appeal, Double Dare ranked number one in its timeslot among kids and teens between ages 2 and 14 on both impressions and share, and the June 25th premiere was Nick’s best series launch among adults 18-49 in more than five years, according to Nielsen*.

The iconic game show, which airs weekdays at 8 pm, is hosted by digital creator and actress Liza Koshy. Each episode features two teams as they battle for prizes through mind-bending trivia questions and physically demanding stunts, including the legendary obstacle course (replete with the human hamster wheel, the wringer, and the Double Dare nose). Original host Mark Summers is back, this time providing color commentary.

“Ratings for the first full week indicate that kids, new viewers and adults alike are showing up for Double Dare and loving it,” said Sarah Levy, COO of Viacom Media Networks and interim head of Nickelodeon. “Liza Koshy and Marc Summers have great chemistry. The kid contestants are totally relatable to our audience. And The Loud House lead-in is a winner, ranking at number one with kids on all TV for the week.”

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After Hot U.S. Start, Paramount Network Launches in UK

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Since its U.S. debut in January, Paramount Network has quickly bolstered Viacom’s position in the premium content space, with its first three originals – Waco, American Woman, and Yellowstone – drawing strong ratings by fusing quality storytelling with top talent.

Tomorrow, Viacom will launch a free-to-air Paramount Network in the UK, bringing the blend of premium content, unscripted fare, movies and more to one of its top European markets.

“Launching on TV screens in the U.K. is another critical milestone for the Paramount Network brand, which we’re convinced will resonate strongly with British viewers, given Paramount’s distinguished and successful history of epic, cinematic storytelling for global audiences,” said Jill Offman, executive vice president of Comedy Central and Paramount Network International. “Delivering free-to-air content to millions of U.K. households underlines our belief that, despite the growing popularity of on-demand, viewers continue to value highly TV channels that offer an intelligently scheduled linear lineup of quality entertainment.”

The channel will build on the company’s considerable past success in the UK, plugging in the editorial team of Viacom-owned Channel 5 to schedule and program the new Paramount Network.

“Paramount Network is set to deliver high-end Hollywood entertainment with blockbuster movies, scripted drama and critically acclaimed comedy featuring some of the biggest names on the planet,” said Channel 5 Director of Programs Ben Frow. “Supported by Channel 5’s creative scheduling and audience insight and underpinned by Viacom’s brand-building expertise, Paramount Network is a popular premium content destination in a free-to-air world.”

Launch content will include the hit unscripted Lip Sync Battle, the seventh season of the popular Suits, Kaitlin Olsen’s The Mick, action drama Six and fantasy drama Heroes Reborn. Classic movies, some from Paramount Pictures’ 106-year-old library, will also air on the network, which will be available on Sky, BT and Freeview.

The Paramount Network in the UK is the second to launch outside of the United States. Last month, Spain rebranded its existing Paramount Channel, which was one of Viacom’s highest-rated networks outside of the U.S. Content includes a blend of movies and television series, including the locally popular reality show Alaska & Mario: El Huracan Mexicano.

“Paramount Network has great positioning and fits perfectly with our strategy in Spain,” Raffaele Annecchino, president and managing director of Viacom International Media Networks Southern and Western Europe, Middle East and Africa, said when announcing the network’s arrival. “Paramount Channel has achieved great results in Spain, but it’s time to evolve the brand even further, making the channel increasingly contemporary and relevant for the Spanish market.”

BET Awards Is Cable’s Top Awards Show for Fourth Consecutive Year

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

With Jamie Foxx at the helm and a parade of headline performers electrifying the stage, the 2018 BET Awards once again landed as the top-rated and most-talked-about cable awards show of the year, drawing 4.3 million viewers across eight Viacom networks.

The numbers speak for themselves – the BET Awards are: the top cable awards show in the key 18-49 demographic for the fourth consecutive year*; the top cable awards among African-Americans 18-49 for the 17th straight year; and the most social cable awards show year-to-date and most social program of the night, sparking 2.1 million interactions (+89 percent total engagements from 2017) across Facebook and Twitter, topping even soccer’s World Cup for online buzz.

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 24: Janelle Monae (C) performs onstage at the 2018 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 24, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paras Griffin/VMN18/Getty Images for BET)

The cross-platform success of BET’s tentpole event capped a strong week for Viacom’s burgeoning live-events business, as ratings and viewership exploded for the MTV Movie & TV Awards, and Vidcon’s first major convention since sliding under the Viacom umbrella met positive marks for retaining its creative soul. Meanwhile, the company’s core television business continued to strengthen behind the debut of Paramount Network’s Yellowstone, which was the most-viewed cable scripted drama in more than two years.

Strong performances and a broad-based award slate that honors everything from the best in music (Cardi B, Drake, Kendrick Lamar), to industry legends (eight-time Grammy-winner Anita Baker, former BET CEO Debra Lee), and humanitarian achievements (Parkland hero Anthony Borges, 11-year-old March For Our Lives speaker Naomi Wadler), fused to drive the strong ratings and social metrics for the BET Awards. In a lineup that included Janelle Monae’s acrobatic rapping, a surprise appearance by J. Cole, and a multi-genre performance by Snoop Dogg, Meek Mill met universal acclaim for what the Washington Post called, “the night’s most powerful performance,” addressing a matrix of issues from police brutality to mass incarceration on a recreated street corner in his new single Stay Woke:

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