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:

Read More

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.

Paramount Network’s Yellowstone Draws 5 Million Viewers for Cable’s Best Scripted Drama Premiere Since 2016

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Following a strong ratings start earlier this month for American Woman, Paramount Network cemented its place as a premium content destination by drawing in more than 5 million viewers (live+3*) for the debut episode of Yellowstone.

The series – set in a rough-and-tumble modern day American West where John Dutton (Kevin Costner), proprietor of the nation’s largest ranch, faces constant land-use pressure from developers, Native American tribes and the neighboring national park – struck gold with viewers, landing as ad-supported cable’s most-watched scripted-drama series in more than two years (since FX’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson).

Among Yellowstone’s headline numbers: It is this summer’s No. 1 new drama on broadcast and cable*. The program drew a 1.1 rating with the 18-49 demographic, and an even more impressive 1.7 with the 25-54 age group. It has attracted more viewers than every World Cup game on Fox and FS1, every Major League baseball telecast, and every game of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the Finals. It is the most-watched program in the history of Paramount Network and its predecessor, Spike.

Paramount Network – Viacom’s newest net – has considerably strengthened Viacom’s position in the original premium content space since it debuted in January with strong ratings for its first original, Waco, a six-part miniseries revisiting the siege of the Branch Davidian’s Texas compound in 1993.

This string of early successes validates Paramount Network’s strategy of recruiting and investing in top talent to drive its productions. American Woman stars Alicia Silverstone, Mena Suvari and Jennifer Bartels. Taylor Kitsch and Michael Shannon headlined Waco. And Yellowstone stars Costner and is created, written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, a renowned filmmaker whose credits include the well-regarded Sicario, Hell or High Water and Wind River.

Yellowstone has everything a worthwhile Western should, including breathtaking vistas, battles over land and Kevin Costner in the lead role,” Lynn Elber wrote for the Associated Press.

“Yellowstone” premiered Wednesday, June 20 on Paramount Network. John Dutton (center – Kevin Costner), owner of the Dutton Ranch is surrounded by his ranch team (pictured l to r) Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley), Lloyd (Forrie Smith), Fred (Luke Peckinpah), Lee Dutton (Dave Annable), Colby (Denim Richards) and Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser).

By populating well-crafted stories with sought-after talent, the net has drawn viewers in with the sort of larger-than-television experiences that define this era of premium TV.

“I hope that the experience feels really fresh and cinematic and like a movie made for people who are sitting at home,” Sheridan told Indiewire. “That was the goal. So I hope that the scope of it and the energy and the emotion and the incredible talent of the cast, hopefully, they really leap from the screen and we have an impression that make people want to come back for more.”

New episodes of Yellowstone air Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Paramount Network.

* Nielsen, L3 data, CVG AA%; cable drama series premieres with Premiere indicator; 2018 entertainment telecasts=1/1/18-6/20/18 L3 P2+, excludes sports and news; sports comparisons L3 P2+ through 6/20/18;  Summer=5/24/18-6/20/18; L3; Premiere indicator; excludes repeats

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:

Read More

Paramount Network Scores Year’s Top-Rated Scripted Cable Premiere Among Women

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

American Woman premiered June 7 on Paramount Network. Pictured [L to R]: Mena Suvari, Cheyenne Jackson, Alicia Silverstone, Jennifer Bartels.

American Woman premiered on Paramount Network earlier this month, delivering viewers into a meticulously recreated 1970s Los Angeles, where emerging women’s empowerment clashed with the stubborn and smothering traditions of an old-guard patriarchy.

The series, starring Alicia Silverstone as a bold divorcée who struggles to raise two daughters after dumping her cheating husband, resonated immediately, drawing in more than one million viewers and establishing itself as the year’s highest-rated half-hour scripted series on cable in the key women’s 18-49 and 25-54 demographics. It was also the top social comedy series on Thursday night (per Nielsen).

That American Woman debuted to stellar reviews didn’t hurt. Silverstone especially has been a critical favorite.

“Plain and simple, Silverstone is perfect casting here, and she is great in this role,” wrote Decider’s Lea Palmieri. “She nails the humor, she looks fantastic, and she delivers the intended message and that go-getter attitude in her signature, captivating style. It’s enjoyable to see this woman in particular portray another woman who is as determined to start a new life as she once was to help a classmate become cool.”

Working alongside co-stars Mena Suvari and Jennifer Bartels, Silverstone struggles through a 1970s world that, in its musical score, its publicly abrasive treatment of women, its clothes and its cars, is as convincing as it is alien to an observer from 2018.

“The success of a period piece like American Woman, which deals with an era that at least some of its audience will have known in person, depends greatly on the quality of the atmosphere it creates,” writes MediaPost’s Adam Buckman, who counts himself among those who experienced the 1970s IRL. “This show gets an A+ in this department, including wardrobe, locations, cars and interior décor.”

Read More

Younger Notches Record Ratings as Season Five Heats Up

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Younger keeps getting stronger. The TV Land mainstay’s fourth season, which wrapped last September, was the highest-rated and most-watched in the show’s history. Liza and the gang then outdid themselves by landing as the No. 1 original ad-supported cable sitcom with the key women’s demographics of 18-49 and 25-54 (Nielsen, L+3) for all of 2017.

Kelsey, Josh, Charles and company are back for season five, and the intricate web of rivalries and romances spinning around central character Liza’s secret (she’s 40 and pretending to be 25), are resonating with viewers more than ever. Episode two, which followed up on the #MeToo-centric, jaw-dropper-filled season premiere, marked the highest-rated and most-watched second week performance in series history. More than 1.2 million average viewers watched, good for a 1.21 rating among women 25-54, and .81 ratings among all adults in that age group. Take a look:

With new bombshells dropping each episode of the Darren Star-produced hit, ratings could stay strong for the remainder of this season’s seven-episode run.

TV Land has already renewed Younger for season six. Watch new episodes every Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.

“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.”

Nine Quotes From Viacom’s Code B.L.A.C.K. Executive Panel On Building A Successful Career

 

My parents were born in an era where there were no African-American astronauts or African-American women CEOs, but as a millennial, I am blessed to live in era where representation is constantly part of conversations.

When The Beat, Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African-American experience, hosted Code B.L.A.C.K.: A Panel of Black Executives as part of its wide-ranging Black History Month celebration, I was grateful to be able to sit in this room of insightful leaders:

Trudi Patrick, Moderator – Executive Assistant –Advanced Advertising

Kodi Foster Senior Vice President of Data Strategy

Nadja Webb – Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Business & Legal Affairs

Michael Armstrong – General Manager of BET Networks

Ericka Wright Tomlinson Vice President of Human Resources for BET Networks and Viacom’s Finance, Core Services, Marketing & Communications teams

While we discussed the challenges of corporate politics, we also joked about things like reading The Shade Room for news. Representation matters and being in a room with other people who care about seeing and hearing from black executives was just what I needed this Black History Month.

Overall, I learned a lot from these executives. Here are my 10 favorite quotes from the event:

Viacom employees at the Code B.L.A.C.K. executive panel. From L to R: Gerald Yarborough, Essence Dashtaray, Georgette Pierre, Trudi Patrick, Nadja Webb, Destiney Bishop, Michael D. Armstrong, Kodi Foster, Ericka Wright Tomlinson and Ezinne Kwubiri.

“In 2007, I had a boss who was a control freak and was very territorial over her work and typically gave me work to do and she would present it in meetings. An opportunity came to launch a huge project and present it to [former head of MTV] Judy McGrath. At the time of this meeting she was traveling. Despite the fact that I did all the work, she told me to postpone the meeting. I spoke to my mentor who encouraged me to present the project I had been working on. So, after going back and forth, I made the executive decision to present it. After presenting it in front of so many senior people, they complimented me and told me I’d lead the project. I thought I was going to get fired, but that was the pivotal moment that I decided that I would present it and ask for forgiveness later and it ended up working out. I could have been the quiet little black girl in the back or decided to step up and do it and I decided to just do it and after that project, I presented it, and ended up getting promoted, which led me to the position I am in now.” – Wright Tomlinson

“Working on Wall Street, I was working late one day. I happened to answer the phone in the area known as the pit, even though I usually don’t answer calls, but I ended up having to explain to a couple in Iowa why their life savings was gone. It was kind of heavy. I was a kid, looking at numbers on spreadsheets and not putting human beings behind the numbers. That was when it hit me, that I wasn’t doing something constructive to better the world, which I feel like we do here by delighting people with entertainment and I decided to change careers.” – Foster

“It took me a long time to understand that you have to have agency over your career. No one else is going to do it for you. I made a classic mistake of trying to always work hard and expect people to notice and lift me up and give me opportunities but it’s on you. You have to identify what you want. If you’re stuck, you have to first identify what you want or think you might like to do and second is to communicate that to the stakeholders involved.” – Webb

“I think being ‘stuck’ in your career is relative. There’s a difference between you’re stuck versus it’s just not your time. Some of us are ready for the next step almost immediately while others are in the same position for over 20 years. There has to be a level of self-examination. Appreciate where you are, are you achieving your goals, and if you’re ready for the next step and not because you think you deserve it. Determine what your ultimate goals are.” – Wright Tomlinson

“I think managing corporate politics is simple. While it can be difficult and political, the easy part is if you show up as your true and authentic self, you don’t have to remember when you’re faking it and when you’re being real. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to calibrate. Knowing the environment, you’re operating in, if you need to adjust your authentic self, the people around you will let you know.” – Armstrong

Read More

Paramount Pictures, Paramount TV Honored for Sustainable Productions

Paramount Television-produced Shooter and Paramount Players’ Eli earned Green Seal and Gold Seal honors, respectively, at the 2018 Environmental Media Awards in recognition of their progress in sustainable production.

Paramount Pictures’ Downsizing, set on a hypothetical future Earth where people shrink themselves to decrease resource consumption, was nominated in the Feature Film category at the ceremony, which recognize media trailblazers who place equal value on creating entertainment and protecting the environment.

The Environmental Media Agency awarded Paramount Television-produced Shooter (USA Networks) at the 2018 Environmental Media Awards for its sustainable production. Photo courtesy of Paramount Television.

Green Seal for Sustainable Production – Paramount Players, Eli

Eli is the first feature film on deck for Paramount Players, Viacom’s newly minted film studio division, which integrates Paramount Pictures and Viacom brands. Eli, slated to premiere in January 2019, is being produced in association with MTV. The film centers around a boy who is hospitalized in a remote clinic while suffering from a rare disease. The child’s treatment takes a nightmarish turn when his sanatorium becomes a prison, possessed by evil spirits intent on keeping him there forever.

Gold Seal for Sustainable Production – USA, Shooter (produced by Paramount Television)

Shooter (a drama series based on Stephen Hunter’s best-selling novels and Paramount Pictures’ 2007 film starring Mark Wahlberg) follows the journey of Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe), a former Marine sniper who is perpetually entangled with bad characters. The show’s highly anticipated third season premieres Thursday, June 21.

The Environmental Media Agency awarded Paramount Television-produced Shooter (USA Networks) at the 2018 Environmental Media Awards for its sustainable production. Photo courtesy of Paramount Television.

“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