“Content Is What Viacom Is” – CEO Bob Bakish Talks Success and Strategy on CNBC

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom


Viacom CEO: Content is essentially what Viacom is from CNBC. Used with permission.

Less than two weeks after reporting fourth-quarter and full-year 2017 earnings headlined by year-over-year revenue gains built on strong partnerships and improving ratings, Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish appeared on CNBC this morning to further underscore the company’s recent successes and positive long-term trajectory.

“You look at ’17, and I’m really happy with what we’ve accomplished,” Bakish told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin. “We rolled out this notion of flagship brands, which is about prioritization and multiplatform expression; we grew ratings and our ratings had been declining; our ad sales business went from minus eight in the quarter I took it over to flat last quarter, and that’s a big improvement; our distribution relationships, we said we were going to broaden them and bring more value to the table, and we did exactly that, and along the way renewed or extended half the sub-base; we moved the needle on content and IP, including doing some cross-house deals.”

There is still a lot of work to do, Bakish acknowledged, as he outlined the reasons for his optimism. “At the core, what Viacom is, is it’s a company of passionate content entrepreneurs that are expert in creating, producing, packaging and monetizing content on a global basis.”

Bakish also pointed to Viacom’s deep content library and novel partnerships arrangements – such as the company’s recent Charter renewal that included co-production of original content and collaborations around advanced advertising – as factors likely to contribute to the company’s long-term growth.

“Content is at the center of virtually every conversation,” Bakish said. “And content is what Viacom is.”

BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike and VH1 Are Viacom’s NAACP Image Award Nominees

Tanya Davis contributed reporting.

We’re thrilled to report that Viacom’s brands have just been nominated for a total of 16 NAACP Image Awards across BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike and VH1. The awards honor outstanding achievements of people of color and those who promote social justice in the arts, and we couldn’t be more proud of our nominees — see the list below. Winners will be announced at a live ceremony on Martin Luther King Day (Monday, Jan. 15).

Congratulations to everyone involved for their fantastic work on these programs. Check out our nominated shows and specials and the respective award categories below.

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2017 Nickelodeon HALO Awards: Doing Good Never Sounded So Great

Ten-year-old Zoe Terry is the Miami-based CEO of Zoe’s Dolls, a nonprofit organization that collects and donates dolls with darker skin tones to girls of African, Hispanic, Caribbean and African-American descent. Terry founded her company in 2012 at age 5 to give these girls an opportunity to play with dolls that looked like them—something she felt was lacking in her community.

Since then, nearly $20,000 in dolls have been donated to more than 4,000 young girls in the U.S., Haiti and Africa. On Nov. 26, the Nickelodeon HALO Awards honored Terry and three others for their philanthropic efforts.

Nick Cannon and our 2017 HALO Honorees Raegan Junge, Caleb White, Zoe Terry, Andrew Dunn. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

The HALO Awards celebrates young leaders who are changing their communities and the world by “Helping and Leading Others.” Rapper Nick Cannon created the awards show in 2011, and returned this year to host the ceremony.

Nick Cannon and Raegan Junge on stage at the 2017 Nickelodeon HALO Awards (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

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“It’s Almost Like Meditation” – the Wonderful Visual Language of Jim Houser

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

There is a lot to process in a Jim Houser installation.

First, there is the painted landscape sweeping across the walls, geometric blocks of bold pastels interspersed with bulbous oversized characters, oblivious and indifferent, like some deep-sea creatures captured unknowingly in a diver’s spotlight. Interspersed about this, like small towns tucked into the vast countryside and observed from above, are pockets of framed art, bespoke artifacts, found objects and curiosities.

Jim Houser’s installations cleverly blend large background elements with smaller, intermingled clusters of objects and paintings. Photo by Studio Brooke.

In HERE, RIGHT HERE, which Houser recently created at Viacom’s global headquarters in Times Square as part of the company’s Art at Viacom series, this eclectic visual language stamps its story across the lobby walls. An amalgam of original artworks, pieces repurposed from past shows, and a collage sourced from an employee workshop, the installation is a varied and fecund articulation of Houser’s inner world, a vast and carefully considered mash-up of sketches, painted characters, poems and three-dimensional objects.

Houser took a break from his installation to sit with me in Viacom’s humming seventh floor cafeteria, where we discussed his process, his creative choices, and why the company is a great artistic partner. Remarks have been and edited for length and clarity.

Stuart Winchester: How did you connect with Viacom?

Jim Houser: I have a commercial agent, who works with other artists in my vein, and one of them was Dabs Myla for their project here at Viacom, and they were like, “Viacom’s awesome.” So I sent a bunch of images and I guess they were into it.

SW: Take me through the process of planning and seeing the space and executing the design once you connected with Viacom.

JH: I had done a show in the early spring in Philadelphia, which is my home base. I sent the Art at Viacom people images, and said, “This is what I just did, I can easily make more work and then combine it with the installation elements that I used for this last thing that I’d done, and I can easily transform it to fit the space.” So I just mocked up images and they sent me images of the space they had, and I explained what I would do and it went from there.

A collage anchors an arrangement of paintings and objects in Jim Houser’s HERE, RIGHT HERE installation for Art at Viacom. Photo by Studio Brooke.

SW: Did you actually visit the space live?

JH: I didn’t, but that’s kind of a common thing for me. I travel around doing this kind of stuff in different cities, and I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years, so I’m kind of used to saying, “send me a floorplan, and photos from the four corners of the room, and I’ll figure it out.”

SW: So once you get onsite, at what point does the piece start to take shape?

JH: The one thing that’s different about this install than maybe some other ones in the past is that even though this area is a room, it’s really just the two walls, and I’m not able to work on the full room at once. So it’s almost like I have to do two installations. I think there’s 60 or 70 paintings total, so in my head I’m splitting my paintings up, because I don’t want to hang 60 on one wall and be like, “Oh, I only have 10 for the other.”

A shot of several paintings and other elements arrayed together in HERE, RIGHT HERE, Jim Houser’s Art at Viacom installation in New York City. Photo by Studio Brooke.

SW: So of those 60 or 70 paintings, were there any created specifically for this installation, or did you have these already?

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Transform into Bumblebee with this Free iOS App from Paramount and Viacom NEXT

Legendary Autobot Bumblebee towers over Times Square through the lens of an augmented reality app created by Viacom NEXT.

Time to take that classic yellow and black Chevy Camaro for the joy ride you always longed for.

Now, thanks to the studio that brought you the explosive Transformers film series and the tech magic-makers at virtual reality (VR) group Viacom NEXT, fans of the heroic Autobot can play as Bumblebee in Transformers: Cade’s Junkyard, a free experience launched today to coincide with the 4K Ultra HD release of the five-movie collection on iTunes.

Cade’s Junkyard, created in augmented reality (AR) using cutting-edge VR technology from Apple, incorporates content from Transformers: The Last Knight – the latest installment of the blockbuster franchise – to transport users to the virtual junkyard of protagonist Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg).

“We’re excited to give fans the opportunity to get in the driver’s seat and take Bumblebee for a ride,” said Howard Hsieh, vice president of Paramount Home Media Distribution.

The experience overlays eye-popping 3D graphics onto your surrounding physical space, allowing you to maneuver around (or into) barrels, wooden crates, rusted-up jalopies, gas tanks and all sorts of other obstacles at breakneck speeds in the iconic automobile. Careful you don’t drive off your desk, though. The action really heats up when you transform into Bumblebee and show those pesky barrels who’s boss. Blowing stuff up with your phone has rarely been this fun. And in case you’re more of a builder than a demolisher, the app allows you to choose and place objects to expand the virtual world wherever you wish.

Smashing up Viacom’s New York City offices with an augmented reality app created by Viacom NEXT.

The sharp gameplay is the product of putting Apple’s new ARKit platform in the hands of the expert engineers and developers at Viacom NEXT. This is the group’s second time building an AR experience with ARKit – in September, Viacom NEXT released ARQUA!, an artistic building game in which users transform their physical environments into rainbow-colored aquariums.

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For One Tech Intern, Viacom’s Experience Room Stands Out

The psychedelic animated VR world of “Chocolate,” an experience created for the song of the same name by San Francisco based musician Giraffage. Created by 3D animator Tyler Hurd and executive produced by Viacom NEXT.

Viacom’s global headquarters at 1515 Broadway shoots 53 floors out of the endless hustle of Times Square. Even amid all this frenetic energy, though, one part of the building really stood out to me as a Media and Technology Services (MTS) Finance intern: the Experience Room.

Situated amid the MTS teams on the 11th floor, the room hosts an ever-updated showcase of the new and emerging technologies that Viacom is exploring, developing, and strategizing to promote MTV, Nickelodeon and other brands. The room doubles as an incubator for Viacom engineers developing products and a fun, engaging place for other employees to experience them.

The room feels futuristic – it is outfitted with integrated smart assistance and voice-activated lighting. One of the gadgets I found particularly fascinating was a voice-activated smart wall mirror, which provides weather information, displays the time, takes notes, and even compliments you.

A section of the room is a mini-museum, outfitted with a chronologically arranged line of devices ranging from a flip phone to Microsoft’s “Hololens” – a headpiece that projects holographic images.

Viacom engineers rotate into the room to work on new technologies, join an existing project, or develop new ideas using the room’s resources. One rotating engineer is at work on a SpongeBob SquarePants robot. The prototype can move around and interact with kids. The engineer would like to equip it with enough information that it can be used as a source of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education for children.

The engineering team is also working on a smart photo booth that can transform its background, factoring in different color combinations and even the type of clothes people are wearing.

The highlight of my time in this space was playing a pair of Viacom NEXT’s Virtual Reality (VR) games: one where I smashed things to collect points in a ring within a simulated Experience Room; a second where I immersed myself within the first ever VR music album with The Melody of Dust, which had such an incredible level of optimization and features embedded within it that I felt as if I were physically in a different world altogether.

The Experience Room now has open hours where employees experience what the team is working on: Wednesdays from 2:30 to 4 p.m. and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. I hope you’ll visit the 11th floor to enjoy this amazing space and draw inspiration from the way that Viacom is developing its present and shaping its future.

Remember, Remember the 11th of November – Viacom Honors Vets

Clockwise from top right: the author summoning the Viacommunity spirit, employees hard at work for vets, notes to vets in progress, final boxes ready to ship. All photos by Studio Brooke.

It occurs on the 11th day of the 11th month of every year: Veterans Day. Creativity and patriotism were flowing at Viacom during the lead up to the holiday this year, a time dedicated to honoring American military veterans.

This year, Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish shared his appreciation to those who have risked their lives for our country by sending personal emails along with MyViacommunity gift cards to the more than 85 employee vets. The veterans can then use the gift cards to donate to a charity of their choice.

Viacommunity and Community Service in a Box (formerly known as Operation Goody Bag) also honored our nation’s bravest by inviting employees to decorate goody bags and send handwritten notes of encouragement to our servicemen and women currently on duty across the country and overseas.

Nearly 100 employee volunteers showed up, designing and assembling 500 Veterans Day-inspired goody bags. Viacommunity sent these gifts to the USO of Metropolitan New York.

Viacommunity featured the project on Viacom’s social pages and LinkedIn highlighted employees’ personal stories:

Viacom on LinkedIn:

“Veteran’s day is important to me because my grandfather was a veteran. He served in the Vietnam war. I have other cousins in my family who are also in the military, and these people give their lives to make us safe here at home. A lot of them travel and live in different places around the world. It must be so hard for military wives and husbands who have partners out there risking their lives, so this day really speaks to me.”

Viacom on LinkedIn:

“What I love about Viacom is the people that work here. The empathy we are trying to create within the company is something that I feel should be established in all companies. I’ve always felt that we should be more sensitive to our surroundings. When we impact people positively, they gravitate towards us. I am here today to write notes to our Viacom Veterans because I want to thank them for their service. Even though I am not their family, I want to let them know that we are grateful for everything that they do.”

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If They Can’t Hear You, They Can’t Hunt You – Paramount’s Terrifying “A Quiet Place”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

They survive by speaking in signs, by padding their footsteps with painted and powdered trails, by rolling dice on folded blankets. They survive by never making a sound.

In the floodlit dystopia of A Quiet Place, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt cautiously guide their family through a terrifying landscape where something vicious stalks them. And everything will be OK – if they can just keep quiet.

Directed by Krasinski, the film also stars Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds. A Quiet Place will be in theaters April 6, 2018.

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A Titanic Return to The Big Screen in Dolby AMC Theaters

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Even in the storied history of Paramount Pictures, Titanic stands out.

It is the second-highest grossing film of all time. It won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. That its heart-rending coda is predestined from the film’s outset has not dampened the appeal of the Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet tale over time.

Now, 20 years after its original theatrical release (and 105 years after the vessel sank into the North Atlantic), Paramount is teaming up with AMC Theaters to re-release the film at 87 Dolby Cinemas locations. The weeklong run will begin Dec. 1, and will include screenings in 20 3D theaters.

The Dolby experience should prove novel even for hardcore Titanic fans. Count Director James Cameron among them. “When we mastered Titanic in Dolby Vision, I was stunned,” said the legendary director. “It was like seeing it for the first time.”

Paramount regularly mines their deep library of iconic films to bring them to fans in new ways. Earlier this year, the studio released an Omertà edition of its Godfather trilogy, 45 years after the first film debuted in theaters.

Waco Releases New Trailer as Paramount Network Ramps Up for January Launch

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Boiling out of the Texas plains and straight to Paramount Network comes a story Biblical and American and tainted with violence. The six-part Waco television event resurrects David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch), and his Branch Davidians in their 1993 standoff against the federal government.

In this latest trailer, we glimpse the frantic machinations of both Koresh’s cult embedded in their Mount Carmel Center compound and the ATF and FBI preparing to infiltrate it as the tale spirals toward its tragic, inexorable conclusion.

Waco will debut Jan. 24, just six days after Paramount Network launches on Jan. 12. It will join Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner, American Woman, starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, and a re-imagining of the cult classic Heathers.

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