Paramount Network Launches, Propelling Viacom Into Premium Content Space

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Paramount Network launches tonight with a special edition of smash hit Lip Sync Battle, propelling Viacom into the premium content universe and building on the century-long storytelling tradition of fellow Viacom property Paramount Pictures.

The launch marks an important business milestone for Viacom, fulfilling a key pillar of CEO Bob Bakish’s strategic plan and cracking open potential for new marketing and advertising partnerships behind a star-studded slate that blends the best of the retiring Spike network with high-quality scripted programming.

The network will rumble to life at 9 p.m. ET with Lip Sync Battle Live: A Michael Jackson Celebration, a showcase of the legendary musician’s hits starring Neil Patrick Harris, Taraji P. Henson, Hailee Steinfeld, Laverne Cox and others.

Paramount Network completes CEO Bob Bakish’s flagship six strategy

The Paramount Network launch culminates a monumental yearlong effort to reorient Viacom under CEO Bob Bakish, consolidating resources under the company’s most iconic brands. The focus around six flagships – Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Paramount Network – is a strategy Bakish had successfully implemented in his decade-long run as head of Viacom International Media Networks.

The strategy has proven successful on the domestic front as well. Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. remain the top kids brands, MTV has ignited a primetime ratings and programming resurgence, Comedy Central completed 2017 with its best ratings week of the year, and BET just completed its 16th year as the top cable network for African-Americans. The last piece was the launch of Paramount Network.

“There’s no better way to better encapsulate Viacom’s strategy change under Bob Bakish than to look at the creation and launch of the Paramount Network,” notes TBI Vision.

Paramount Network launches Viacom into the premium content game, with big stars and great stories

Paramount Network’s premium scripted content will launch Jan. 22, when Waco, co-starring Michael Shannon and Taylor Kitsch, debuts. Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner, American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, and a re-imagining of the 80s classic Heathers will follow later this year.

“The audience has an expectation that there are going to be big names, big stars, great storytelling, great characters, and I think that’s what we have to focus on,” Kay told Variety.

Paramount Network opens up tremendous partnership opportunities

The combination of captivating content, huge talent and high production generates enormous interest not just from fans, but also from advertising, distribution and creative partners who want to do business with Viacom.

“All the groups together went out and presented to both the movie studios, to our agency clients, and then to our distributors as well,” recalled Paramount Network President Kevin Kay when asked how partners have been processing the rebrand. “People understood why we are rebranding Spike as Paramount Network, they’re excited to work with us, and the biggest thing I think that came both on the distribution side and on the ad-sales side was that clients said, ‘we want to be your partners.’”

The best of Spike is coming along

When the tribute to the King of Pop ticks to life tonight, the long-running Spike network will cease to be in the United States, gifting to Paramount Network its top unscripted programs – Ink Master, Bar Rescue, and Lip Sync Battle – plus Bellator MMA.

This mix of legacy unscripted programming establishes the net’s impressive versatility and provides a stable complement to Paramount Network’s still-evolving scripted slate.

“We’ve got scripted dramas, non-scripted in a big premium way, we’ve got scripted comedies, we’ve got docuseries, and we’ve got Mixed Martial Arts,” Kay told Deadline. “If you look around at the broadcast networks, that’s not a bad model to me. On the broadcast networks, you’ve got drama nights, you’ve got comedy nights, you’ve got sports nights. You’ve got a lot of variety for different viewers across a very broad audience. I feel that’s where we want to be.”

Nobodies will also migrate to Paramount Network, from Viacom’s TV Land. There are more original concepts in development, including sketch comedy series Browntown in collaboration with leading Latino-focused digital media brand mitú.

Paramount Network builds on Paramount Picture’s century-long legacy

Paramount Network takes its name from the rich DNA of Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, the 105-year-old Hollywood icon whose deep catalogue houses some of the most memorable films ever made, including Titanic, Forrest Gump, and the Godfather films. While Paramount Network and Paramount Pictures will operate separately, their relationship will mirror that of other Viacom properties under Bakish, in which the brands collaborate with the movie studio to maximize the reach of intellectual property.

“There’s a real big need, and there’s a want, a desire, for us all to work together really closely, to both exploit [Paramount Pictures’] library and then to help promote the movies, and then to potentially create some great programs for Paramount Network,” Kay explained.

Paramount Pictures also owns the Paramount Television production studio, which tripled its revenue in 2017 through a steady stream of high-quality content, including the Netflix sensation 13 Reasons Why, Epix’s Berlin Station, and Shooter on USA.

“There is incredible demand for high-quality television content and the reality is, there are not that many places that you can get it,” Bakish said at the at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in December, underscoring the importance of Paramount Television.

The Paramount name resonates globally – Viacom offers a network called Paramount Channel in select markets outside of the United States. According to Bakish, it is the largest ad-supported movie channel in the world.

Nashville Season Six Debuts On a High Note

Nashville Is back and in rhythm.

On Thursday, Jan. 4, CMT’s beloved country soap Nashville returned for its sixth and final season. 1.6 million viewers joined them, a testament to the loyal “Nashie” fan base hooked by season five’s plot twists—including the death of a major character (Connie Britton’s Rayna Jaymes), police misconduct and racial profiling, song stealing and scheming, dramatic hookups and breakups…accompanied by melodic country harmonies, of course.

Nashville started 2018 with the highest ratings since its midseason five premiere. And according to Nielsen, Nashville’s debut was the night’s top social entertainment cable program—with #NashvilleCMT trending nationally on Twitter.

“The final season is truly the culmination of the incredible journey of each of these beloved characters,” said Keith Cox, president of development for Paramount, CMT and TV Land. “We want to give the fans, who fought so passionately to bring the show to CMT, a spectacular ending and great payoff.”

Watch a teaser for the next episode:

“The continued success of ‘Nashville’ remains a critical and defining part of our 2018 plan and a vital building block towards a strong future,” said Frank Tanki, general manager of CMT and TV Land. “Once again, the team has pushed themselves on all fronts and it’s absolutely amazing to see all these moving parts come together so smartly and loudly.”

The strong tune-in for the premiere follows a record-breaking 2017, in which CMT scored 53 consecutive weeks of ratings growth, underscoring the fact that Nashville is just one part of a diverse CMT programming roster that encompasses a bit of everything—from unscripted dramas to innovative digital content.

Music City, for example, is a docu-series created by famed executive producer Adam DiVello, who also helmed iconic MTV reality dramas Laguna Beach and The Hills.

Watch a teaser for Music City:

Music City is filmed in Nashville, with a cast of young, up-and-coming musicians struggling to make it in a cutthroat industry—much like The Hills, which gave viewers an inside look at fledgling fashionstas Lauren Conrad, Audrina Patridge and Heidi Montag as they tried to succeed in Hollywood.

Watch a throwback clip of The Hills:


This sort of unscripted docu-series has broad appeal: I was a rabid fan of The Hills, even though I didn’t share career aspirations as future fashion mogul Conrad (I tuned in for the personality conflicts, delectable drama and luxurious landscape), and I’ll probably watch Music City, even though I’m not a country music fan. It’s enticing to watch young professionals engage in a heightened state of reality, vying for their dream career (especially now that I’m around the same age as the cast members).

And the network is meeting fans on all platforms – CMT’s 2018 slate includes three new short-form digital series, exclusive for YouTube: How To Wear, Street Art Stories, and The Downtown Farmer.

Watch the trailer for Street Art Stories below, and find the full playlist on YouTube:

Watch new episodes of Nashville on CMT, Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET

RuPaul Wins Best Reality TV Host Critics’ Choice Award for VH1’s Drag Race

After the 23rd annual Critics’ Choice Awards, RuPaul Charles can add Best Reality TV Host to his ever-growing trophy collection.

RuPaul’s Drag Race – The VH1 show that he hosts – was also nominated for Best Reality Competition Series. Since moving to VH1 from sister network Logo last year, Drag Race has amassed an even larger and more diverse fan base—driving it from cult LGBT favorite to mainstream darling.

Viacom’s other Critics’ Choice nominees included TV Land’s Younger (Sutton Foster, Best Actress in a Comedy Series) and MTV’s Teen Mom (Best Unstructured Reality Series).

Check out this video by Viacom Catalyst:

The Critics’ Choice win follows a string of recent successes for RuPaul. In September, he won his second Emmy at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards—for top host, with Drag Race earning an additional two Emmys for its Oh. My. Gaga. episode.

Watch the award-winning episode, Oh. My. Gaga:

The Emmys were for Outstanding Costumes for Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Programming; and Outstanding Picture Editing for a Structured or Competition Reality Program.

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Trevor Noah Adds “South S***hole” Comic Loyiso Madinga as Africa Correspondent

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Who says South Africa is a S***hole country?

Well, allegedly, President Trump. But that did not stop The Daily Show  host Trevor Noah from digging deeper into his home country’s talent pool to find the show’s newest correspondent:

By dispatching Madinga to localities across Africa and weaving his segments into the global, often Donald Trump-focused broadcast from New York City, The Daily Show further embeds itself into Comedy Central’s rapidly growing international audience with stories that resonate with their daily experience.

“As wild as Donald Trump is for America, many countries around the world have Trumps of their own and since The Daily Show is in many countries, we thought ‘why not give each country a chance to show off their stable geniuses?’” Noah said of the decision to add Madinga to the show’s roster.

His first segment – a look at corruption in the African National Congress under South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma – aired locally in Africa on Thursday, Jan. 11.

The move to localize more content follows a year of torrid international ratings growth for The Daily Show, with a 35 percent surge across 10 nations, including South Africa. As the show’s popularity overseas grows, Comedy Central may look to further bolster programming with local components.

“We’re always looking for ways to take global hits and localize them for regions around the world by adding great local talent, like Loyiso,” said Jill Offman, executive vice president and head of Paramount Channel and Comedy Central International. “This is a pilot, so down the road you may see more internationally based correspondents, making The Daily Show a truly global yet local show for regions around the world.”

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MTV Keeps the Party Going from Shore to Shining F***ing Shore

When Floribama Shore came whirling out of MTV in November as a barrage of binge drinking, bar brawls and bedwetting, it included a surprise announcement: the cast of the original Jersey Shore, which launched a global franchise and transformed “GTL” into widely understood shorthand, was reassembling for a new series: Jersey Shore Family Vacation.

Fans’ appetite for more Shore seemed to match the network’s enthusiasm – that first episode of Floribama Shore was MTV’s highest-rated premiere in more than three years.

There’s plenty more to come. After a raucous season that embedded itself deeply enough into the national conversation to earn the honor of a hilarious Saturday Night Live skit, MTV announced that Floribama Shore would return for 20 episodes starting this summer. The net also dropped another Family Vacation promo, this time asking viewers to help decide where the f*&% the OG cast will go by using the hashtag #JSFamilyVacation.

To understand the show’s popularity, it helps to examine its layers.

Watching an episode of Floribama Shore is akin to hopping into a time portal, transporting you to a bygone era of hot pin Polo T-shirts with the collar popped and “going-out tops” (aka the early aughts) that is somehow fused with 1950s sensibility.

It’s a world where a 23-year-old divorcée is fraught with anxiety over potential spinsterhood, and a gorgeous 24-year-old woman frets over aging. The male contestants at once act hyper-macho and are quintessential Southern gentleman. Imagine living life on the set of A Streetcar Named Desire, surrounded by the scent of Hollister cologne.

Of course, this group of twentysomethings partied as hard as their predecessors, but they also prayed before dinner and had thoughtful, seemingly unscripted conversations about their lives—one cast member had been homeless before the show, and another was reeling from the end of a 10-year relationship after her boyfriend cheated on her with her cousin. (This was, according to her, an “Alabama thing.”)

These deep conversations about real-life issues are perhaps what won over fans and critics, enough to earn the show a second season. In a Rolling Stone review, writer Kory Grow said Floribama Shore revealed “soul” and lauded MTV for showing “a group of eight red-state denizens, who, despite their personal flaws, did not espouse any outward Trumpism (or for that matter, Hillary hating). They all found common ground with each other easily – praying, discussing their Christianity and talking about their families.”

While you’re waiting for season two of Floribama Shore, watch season one on MTV, or cast your vote for the crew’s destination on Twitter, because the party hasn’t stopped.

Check out these tweets from our fans:

Is Trevor Noah Dishonest and Corrupt Enough to Win Trump’s Honor?

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

How does a U.S. president follow up a Twitter threat to start a nuclear war with America’s external enemies?

With a promise to strike the malcontents who are most ferociously attacking the nation from within – the mainstream media:

Comedy Central’s Daily Show host Trevor Noah could barely contain his excitement at this proclamation from the Very-Stable-Genius-in-Chief.

“After provoking North Korea and then insulting Palestine, the President turned to America’s greatest foe: the fake-news media,” Noah said of Trump’s announcement. “So that was Donald Trump’s day on Twitter. The bad news is he’s itching to start a nuclear war. The good news is, despite his threats to Korea, at least he thinks we’re going to make it until Monday.”

And the better news for fans is that, despite Trump pushing the awards until Wednesday, Noah is lobbying hard to win this distinction. In the grand tradition of “for your consideration” awards season self-promotion, Noah turned to the “failing” (according to Trump), New York Times to promote himself as the best possible candidate for the president’s prize:

Noah even plastered his qualifications on a Times Square billboard (on the north side of Viacom’s HQ at 1515 Broadway):

Noah will have plenty of competition, including Comedy Central alums Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee, who are running their own furious campaigns for this high honor. Noah is not intimidated. “President Trump, don’t be faked out by their fake fake-outs,” a narrator says on a Daily Show-sponsored ad dismissing Colbert and Bee as fake fakers. “When you cast your vote on Monday, vote for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. He covers you very unfairly, and he’s literally un-American.”

It’s true (though don’t hold that against them): Noah is from South Africa.

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Tyra Banks Returns to VH1’s America’s Next Top Model on Tuesday, January 9

On Tuesday, Jan. 9,  America’s Next Top Model returns to VH1 for its 24th cycle with a promise: to go next-level fierce, or go home.

With the return of former host and all-around boss Tyra Banks, it looks as if the seminal modelling competition will hold true to its promise. The legendary “Queen of the Smize” has a few surprises up her sequined-sleeve, and has already drummed up excitement for the new season by removing the show’s 27-year-old age limit.

In a video posted to her personal Twitter account, Banks explained why contestants of all ages are welcome to werk it.

“There have been 23 cycles of America’s Next Top Model, and every single cycle we say you have to be 27 years old or younger,” said Banks. “You know what I hear all the time? ‘Tyra, come on. Why have an age limit?’ So you know what? I’m taking that age limit off.”

We can also expect guest appearances by RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Valentina, Katya and Manila and a special episode involving “noted fashion photographer” Nigel Barker.

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Viacom to Welcome Proven Partner: Influence Marketing Company WHOSAY

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom has signed a definitive agreement to acquire WHOSAY, an influence marketing company whose deep reach into next-generation advertising and marketing platforms and solutions will boost Viacom’s capabilities across advertising, marketing and digital content.

Partnering with some of the world’s most recognizable brands, WHOSAY does everything from crafting campaign strategy to casting influencer talent to producing premium content and live events to analyzing data and performance.

An important piece of Viacom’s strategic plan

Viacom’s acquisition of WHOSAY will be an important component of the business strategy laid out by CEO Bob Bakish, who has frequently discussed the necessity of further expanding onto emerging digital platforms and beefing up the company’s already considerable advanced-advertising capabilities.

“One objective is accelerating our participation in next-generation platforms and solutions,” Bakish said, outlining his principle 2018 objectives at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in December. “So those are things like the over-the-top business, where we see significant opportunity on the virtual MVPD [multichannel video programming distributor] side, also the direct-to-consumer side, and related to that, the advanced advertising side. And this is not something that we’re making up … we had about $350 million of business there across those sectors [in 2017], and we believe that’s a $1 billion business by 2020.”

A proven partner

This acquisition will unite two engaging storytellers, fusing Viacom’s global content engine, diverse audience and best-in-class advanced advertising tools with WHOSAY’s precision ability to seamlessly match brand objectives with talent and creative, and optimize the message through omnichannel distribution.

WHOSAY has already executed more than 50 campaigns for MTV, BET and other Viacom brands over the past two years, crafting activations that feature top influencers such as singer/songwriter LeToya Luckett for November’s BET Soul Train Awards, and rapper Lil Yachty and actor Keegan Allen for the MTV Movie & TV Awards in May.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BTnZWW6l0jj/?taken-by=keeoone&hl=en

“We’re excited about a deeper integration with WHOSAY and the strength of our combined capabilities,” said Viacom Head of Marketing & Partner Solutions Sean Moran. “This partnership will add to our linear, digital and mobile arsenal by bringing us further into the world of social media and shopper marketing. Together, we will offer brand partners unparalleled creative solutions that maximize the power of storytelling, influencer reach, omnichannel distribution and advanced advertising tools to create quality campaigns that drive results.”

Complementing Viacom’s strengths

Amplifying the power and reach of WHOSAY’s campaigns is the company’s expertise in matching brands and influencers via its proprietary Match platform. Once the pairing is solidified, WHOSAY is expert at distilling a brand’s goals, creating a campaign, and spreading that message to the ideal audience through social, digital, mobile, linear, experience, out-of-home and other channels.

These advanced whole-campaign capabilities and digital focus will act as a powerful complement to many of Viacom’s existing entities, including the Velocity full-service integrated marketing and creative team and the company’s newly created Digital Studios unit under Kelly Day.

The addition of WHOSAY to Viacom’s portfolio will also underscore Viacom’s position as a leader in advanced advertising, building upon the significant capabilities of its data-driven audience-targeting Vantage product and its status as a founding member of the OpenAP audience targeting and measurement platform.

In addition to their considerable digital and event capabilities, WHOSAY has built a bricks-and-mortar-focused WHOSAY Shopper team, which will open up potential new retail opportunities for Viacom brands.

Viacom Stands Out On 2017 Year-End Lists, Owns Half of Billboard’s 10 Best Award Show Performances

Viacom wrapped 2017 with a strong showing on the flurry of industry best-of compilations assembled by top media and entertainment press.

Critics lauded Viacom’s premium content: Vice included South Park’s Put It Down episode on its list of memorable TV moments, while BET’s The Rundown With Robin Thede – which stars the only African-American host in late-night television – made Deadline’s list of top 10 new TV shows of 2017. And The Advocate praised VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race for its positive representation of the LGBT community, commending it with several mentions on their list of the 15 most important LGBT TV moments of 2017.

Most striking, however, is that Viacom’s culturally resonant awards shows staked out half the slots on Billboard’s 10 Best Award Show Performances of 2017: Critics’ Picks. Keep in mind that there were roughly 45 music award shows across the industry in 2017.

These poignant musical moments stood out to Billboard critics: Kendrick Lamar’s raw, rapid-fire delivery of DNA and Humble at the VMAs; the moment when Logic, Alessia Cara and Khalid sang out for suicide prevention (also at the VMAs); New Edition’s epic reunion performance at the BET Awards (a swaggering fusion of OG members and the cast of BET’s biopic, The New Edition Story), Camila Cabello’s EMA performance of Havana; and Missy Elliot’s old-school rendering of her classic banger She’s a Bitch at the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors.

Let’s take another look at these phenomenal performances. Here are Billboard’s top Viacom picks:

Kendrick Lamar, “DNA.” / “HUMBLE.” (MTV VMAs)

​Logic feat. Alessia Cara and Khalid, “1-800-273-8255” (MTV VMAs)

New Edition Medley (BET Awards)

Camila Cabello, “Havana” (MTV Europe Music Awards)

👀HAVANA👀 #mtvEMA numero 3

A post shared by camila (@camila_cabello) on

Missy Elliott, “She’s a Bitch” (VH1 Hip-Hop Honors)

There were plenty more noteworthy Viacom performances Billboard’s shortlist. My favorite acts from Viacom’s 2017 shows included Lorde’s muted modern dance at the VMAs and musical trio Hayley Kiyoko, Alex Newell, and Wrabel‘s exhilarating True Colors cover at Logo’s Trailblazer Honors during Pride Month in June.

Watch the performance:

With the upcoming launch of the Paramount Network on Jan. 18, returning hits like CMT’s Nashville and Comedy Central’s Detroiters, VH1’s latest addition to fan-favorite franchise Love & Hip Hop: Miami and a ravishing slate of upcoming live events, Viacom promises to deliver another year of eminent content and groundbreaking experiences for our fans.

Don’t Miss the Season 6 Premiere of Nashville On CMT: Thursday, January 4

CMT’s hit series Nashville takes the stage for its sixth and final season tonight. The show’s compelling stories, major drama and incredible music have connected with fans everywhere, and tonight kicks off the final verse.

Will Juliette finally face down her demons? Will Deacon find a new love? Will Gunnar, Avery and Will form the ultimate country boy band?

Find out where the road will lead — and catch a behind-the-scenes look at the season’s creation below.

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