Viacom Again Lands on Indeed.com’s List of Best Fortune 500 Companies to Work for

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Over the past several years, Viacom’s towering Times Square headquarters has undergone a series of significant renovations. In the lobby, enormous screens now hang alongside the elevator banks, a cavernous event space and a new cafe host an endless procession of parties and meetings, and a sequence of bold installations has invigorated the entrance areas with the energy of a high-end art gallery. Up on the seventh floor, the Wellness Studio offers heavily discounted memberships on a regimen of fitness classes, while employees can get their pictures album-ready for free at a printing studio. The 31st floor has been transformed into a massive convention center, while several other floors have been renovated in a style that elegantly meshes function and design.

As the company headquarters slowly sheds its old skin for the wide-open interiors of the 21st century media workplace, Viacom has been investing furiously in new, renovated and expanded buildings all over its footprint: earlier this year, the company united eight of its brands in a soaring space in the heart of Hollywood and vastly expanded its Burbank studio.

This invigorating workspace overhaul is just one of many perks to having a job at Viacom, and it likely contributes to the company landing on the upper half of Indeed.com’s list of  Best Fortune 500 Companies to work for for the second consecutive year.

What makes Indeed’s list unique is that their rankings are based entirely on data extracted from employee-submitted reviews. And the reviews are strong.

“I have worked at Viacom in Hollywood for over a year and love it,” went one typical comment. “Super fun and collaborative culture, cool brands and a nice work/life balance.”

Commenters praised the company’s perks (like free soda and coffee machines in many locations), employee events (like a conversation with LL Cool J), paid time off, benefits, and career development and advancement opportunities.

“Smart companies know that if they make their workers feel comfortable and happy, they will work harder and longer,” another commenter wrote. “Happiness pays for itself with higher productivity.”

The company has spent decades building a deep talent pool – signed plaques commemorating 10-or-more-year anniversaries are ubiquitous on desks around the office – and this shows in the deep respect that many commenters had for their peers. “My co-workers were some of the smartest professionals I’ve ever worked with,” wrote one person, who identified themselves as a former vice president in Ad Sales. Another expressed a similar sentiment: “At Viacom I learned how to be a better engineer, you are around GREAT and strong engineers and as our lead architect would say, ‘Stay with us, we will make you better.’”

And while all of these things are, in my experience, true, and having cool workspaces infuses day-to-day tasks with a certain energy, there is something far more important that Indeed identified as a common thread running through all of the top 50 companies. “A recurring theme across the employee reviews for these firms is the importance of a strong company culture and clear values,” a post on the site announcing the list explained.

Indeed, a strong community conscience has always been vital to Viacom’s self-image, and many employees praised  the many volunteer opportunities, an inclusive culture that values diversity, and the unexpected benefits that transcend the typical menu of health insurance policies, such as adoption assistance.

Viacom employees help clean up Central Park at Viacommunity Day 2017, the company’s annual day of community service.

While a constellation of factors influence how people feel about their jobs every day, there is a pervasive pride, throughout the comments on Indeed, of working for a company that is so vital to the modern media and entertainment landscape, and one that is adapting so well to it, with advanced data capabilities and audience measurement tools. As one commenter wrote, “The industry is going through a major restructure and this company is ahead.”

This recognition from Indeed is the latest in a long line of acknowledgements that the company has received for creating a supportive and attractive work environment. Last year, Fast Company named Viacom a top destination for work-life balance, Fatherly named us to its Great Workplaces for New Dads list, and Working Mother put the company on its 100 Best Companies list for the sixth consecutive year.

The Next Normal, AV Cues & Fans’ Brains, South African Youth: Viacom Global Insights Digest, August Edition

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Welcome to the August issue of the Viacom Global Insights Digest, bringing you Viacom’s latest consumer insights from around the world.

This month, we unveil our latest project, The Next Normal: Rise of Resilience, as well as new research on how emotions influence viewing decisions, the effect of audio-visual cues on fans’ brains, and young adults in South Africa.

As always, the English version of our blog is home to these stories and many more. All stories are available in Spanish (LatAm) and Portuguese (Brazilian).

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What to Expect at the 2017 VMAs: Katy Perry, Moon People, and the End of Gendered Categories

When MTV became one of the first American award shows to eliminate gender categories at the MTV Movie and TV Awards in May, people noticed.

“I give [MTV] credit for having the audacity to shake up the cultural DNA, to show us what a new kind of post-gender consciousness feels like,” said Variety columnist Owen Glieberman. “For kicking open a door by simply doing it.”

Now, MTV is doing it again.

In July, the network announced nominations for the VMAs – and gender-specific awards categories were conspicuously absent.

The categories formerly known as Best Female Video and Best Male Video have been consolidated into Artist of the Year. Nominees within this category include Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, and Kendrick Lamar, whose music video Humble received eight nominations – the highest total of all nominees this year.

Several days after this news broke, we learned that the iconic astronaut trophy has evolved alongside the categories. Meet the MTV Moon Person.

“Why should it be a man?” MTV President Chris McCarthy asked The New York Times. “It could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be transgender, it could be nonconformist.”

MTV also announced that Katy Perry would host the event. Her music video Chained to the Rhythm featuring Skip Marley received five nominations, tying her with fellow Artist of the Year nominee The Weeknd for the second highest number of nominations this year.

The VMAs will also carry over the Movie and TV Awards’ new category, Best Fight Against the System.

The Movie and TV Awards’ category celebrated “characters fighting back against systems that hold them down,” and the VMA version will honor music videos that do the same thing, such as The Hamilton Mixtape’s Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) and Alessia Cara’s Scars to Your Beautiful. Both videos generated positive buzz for their stance on important issues: immigration and body positivity, respectively.

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Paramount Releases Teaser Trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s mother! Starring Jennifer Lawrence

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Just a week after releasing the first trailer for the George Clooney-directed Suburbicon and following the weekend release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Paramount Pictures has dropped the teaser for mother!

While the 29-second clip doesn’t reveal any plot points, it succeeds in creating a tense, layered, austere and absorbing world, a backdrop for the star-heavy cast of Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer to deliver something special. With Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) directing, that seems likely.

All Paramount has revealed for certain, aside from the cast, is a bullet-point description: “A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.” For more, we’ll have to wait until the studio releases the full trailer next week.

Mother! will hit theaters September 15.

Four Reasons to Go See Al Gore’s Hopeful, Compelling An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power rattles out of a world where typhoons and wildfires wail and rage, where warm climate-fueled Zika virus menaces an ever-widening swath of the globe, where streets melt in India, where the coastal United States is swamped on normal days (sunny day flooding in Miami) and extraordinary ones (Hurricane Sandy in New York City).

Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, Al Gore’s sequel to his Oscar-winning 2006 An Inconvenient Truth hits just two months after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 195-nation Paris climate agreement. While the timing of the film’s release is coincidental, An Inconvenient Sequel acts as an emphatic counterpoint to the climate-denying, march-with-fingers-in-our-ears-saying-la-la-la-as-the-planet-catastrophically-warms crowd. Here are five reasons to go see it as soon as possible:

1) The documentary frames climate change in an easy-to-understand way

One of the great strengths of An Inconvenient Truth was its distillation of a complex global phenomenon into black-and-white data points. While the sequel has dispensed with the Power- Point-as-documentary narrative device of its predecessor, Gore nonetheless synthesizes the intricate into the straightforward, this time with a blend of graphics and anecdotes

“The man is wonky, no question. But that’s what has made his climate-change crusade persuasive for so many,” writes Bob Mondello on NPR.org. “He gets the figures, turns them into easily digested factoids, says things that initially sound outrageous, and handles the pushback. … The single most exhilarating moment may come from a bar graph — seriously, you’ll want to cheer — but there’s no shortage of human stories on screen: The woman whose shoe gets stuck in pavement that’s melted from the heat.”

That is not to say that the film is without nuance. When Gore evacuates from his Paris venue as ISIS-affiliated terrorists slaughtered 130 people around the city in November 2015, it inspires a cause-and-affect musing that lays out the complexity of the global climate jigsaw puzzle: a drought in Syria led indirectly to social upheaval and civil war, which pried open the social order enough to let ISIS thrive and propagate throughout the world.

VP Al Gore with former Mayor of Tacloban City Alfred Romualdez and Typhoon Haiyan survivor Demi Raya, in the Raya family home; Tacloban City, Philippines, March 12, 2016

2) Climate change is not a partisan issue 

Dale Ross is a proud Republican-voting Texan, mayor of Georgetown, “the reddest city in the reddest county in Texas.” And yet, he has oriented his city to become the first in the state that will be 100 percent renewable. Asked why, he said that it simply made economic sense to do so.

“It’s a heartening moment at a time of horrendous political division, but it’s also central to the movie’s approach, which is to insist on facts over ideology and show why it’s a good idea to present the practical as well as the moral argument,” writes Newsweek’s Charles Taylor.

By stripping out partisan moralizing and reframing the argument in economic terms, Gore is both conceding Republicans’ economy-first argument and providing them an excuse to reconsider alternative energy sources without having to admit that such actions could forestall a climate shift. Who cares, after all, when your utility bills are lower?

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Matt Damon Stars in, George Clooney Directs Paramount’s Suburbicon

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

It’s a 1959 of oversized fin-tailed Chevys and tract homes stamped out to the horizon, a postwar ideal churned straight out of the American Dream-o-meter. It’s a land where strip malls are new and glamourous, where kids still rollick in bicycle-riding packs about the neighborhood, where green lawns and American flags wallpaper the suburban wonderland.

And then the home invasions start. And bad guys kill Mom. And aunt Margaret (Julianne Moore), has some kind of pill problem. And Dad (Matt Damon), may or may not be tied up with the mob. At any rate, he eats with a revolver on the table and repurposes that Chevy’s tire iron as a war weapon.

This is Suburbicon, Paramount’s madcap, George Clooney-directed, Coen Brothers-written tale of violence and deceit. In theaters October 27.

Petals, Pizzazz and Politics—How the Season Finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race Sashayed to the Mainstream

A 29-year-old drag queen from Brooklyn, New York known as Sasha Velour is lip syncing to Whitney Houston’s So Emotional. She’s gliding across the stage; a graceful avant-garde, bald ballerina.

Arms clad in opera-length bronze gloves, Velour vogues alongside fellow queen Shea Couleé, sauntering her hips and moving her lips soundlessly. Then, she craned her neck and began tugging at her wig. Pantomiming a seizure, she grabbed each scarlet lock to unleash a cascade of rose petals—just as Houston’s ballad reached its dénouement.

Watch the performance:

It was the season 9 finale of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. Nearly 9 million people watched as Velour won the coveted title of America’s Next Drag Superstar, making Drag Race history for the most-watched finale. It was, in the eternal words of Whitney Houston, “So emotional.”

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Nick Nostalgia Trip Continues with Hey Arnold! and Rocko’s Modern Life Movie Trailers at Comic Con

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Nickelodeon unleashed a pair of nostalgia-infused trailers at last week’s San Diego Comic Con, promoting TV movies that will revisit fondly remembered series from the 1990s and early 2000s: Hey Arnold! and Rocko’s Modern Life.

“Nickelodeon rolled into Comic-Con 2017 with the most effective weapon they could possibly unleash on millennials: nostalgia,” wrote Katie Buenneke in L.A. Weekly. “As always, Nick isn’t just catering to kids — and now they’re specifically targeting the generation of now-adult kids who grew up on Nick’s animated programming.”

via GIPHY

Hey Arnold!, which ran on Nick from 1996 to 2004, is set in the streets of Hillwood, a sort of Portland-Brooklyn-Seattle mash-up where fourth grader Arnold lives in an inner-city boarding house with his grandparents. Kind and unassuming, Arnold is a low-key bully-battling hero who is perpetually helpful to those in need.

This no-judgement, all-are-welcome Mr. Fix It persona endeared Arnold to a whole generation of Nick viewers. “90s kids who grew up with the show Hey Arnold! love it because main man Arnold is earnestly cool and selfless to everyone in his neighborhood and PS 118,” writes Inquirer.net’s Niña V. Guno.

It turns out that nice ages well. Fast forward to 2017. Arnold has aged one year. He is prepping to enter sixth grade. Best bud Gerald has organized a rooftop tribute to Arnold’s relentless do-goodery. And then we find out that this crew is sending their urban hero to the (fictional) Central American nation of San Lorenzo, where his parents disappeared back in the 90s.

Hey Arnold! creator Craig Bartlett talks a bit more about the characters’ updated styles and teases Arnold’s destination:

Rocko’s Modern Life, which ran on Nick from 1993 to ’96, followed the titular anthropomorphic immigrant wallaby and his crew – Heffer the steer and Filburt the turtle – through the fantasyland of their fictional city, O-Town. Despite its short-ish run, the series retains a loyal fanbase.

“The fourth Nicktoon to debut, Rocko’s Modern Life boasts a sizable cult to this day, largely thanks to the fact that it tosses a bunch of goofily animated animals straight out of a brightly colored Sunday comic strip into the midst of decidedly mundane situations, from visiting the DMV to flying on a plane to cleaning an apartment,” A.V. Club’s Todd VanDerWerff wrote more than a decade and a half after the final episode aired.

That final episode – or at least what the creators intended to be the final episode – sent Rocko and his posse deep into space, where they have been floating about (along with an impudent monkey and bunches of bananas) ever since.

via GIPHY

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Helping Immigration, Child Services, Hunger and Homelessness – Viacom, Catchafire Celebrate another Successful Year Collaborating

This spring, Viacom teams collaborated with nonprofit organizations from across the country and donated their time and skills through Talent for Good, Viacom’s skills-based volunteering program. These efforts culminated on July 10 when Viacom and Catchafire welcomed members from these four amazing nonprofits alongside the employees who volunteer with them in a celebration at Viacom’s New York headquarters.

This event, organized and hosted by Viacommunity, united everyone to share their experiences and celebrate their achievements. Adam Robinson, director of Corporate Social Responsibility, kicked the event off with a toast.

“Talent for Good gives our employees the opportunity to build and sharpen their skill-sets, and give back to the community in a much needed and impactful way,” Robinson said.

Adam Robinson, director of Viacom Corporate Social Responsibility, kicked off a Talent for Good partner event with a toast.

The first group to speak at the luncheon was a team of Viacom employees discussing how they banded together to create a pitch deck for L.A. based homeless youth shelter My Friend’s Place. As a native New Yorker, I felt a personal connection to this particular Talent for Good project. Manhattan, much like other large metropolitan areas, is riddled with homelessness. I see sleeping bags filled with tired bodies and men holding out cups filled with coins every day on my way to work in Times Square.

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Black Girls Will Rock! Again, August 20 on BET

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Good news:

And 2011 Black Girls RocK! honoree and five-time BET Award-winner Taraji P. Henson will be in New Jersey to host the whole thing.

“I’m honored to host the Black Girls Rock! Awards,” said Henson. “I love the message and I love Beverly Bond and her vision. I was lucky to be honored in 2011. It is truly a highlight of my life. Let’s make history together as we come together as women of brains, beauty and in support of each other.”

The 2017 Black Girls Rock honorees are groundbreakers in art, business, entertainment and community service:

Star Power Award – “Insecure” creator, actress, writer and producer Issa Rae

Young Gifted and Black Award – actress and activist Yara Shahidi

Living Legend Award – Grammy Award-winning songstress Roberta Flack

Shot Caller Award – Wall Street powerhouse and pioneer Suzanne Shank

Community Change Agent Award – Community organizers Derrica Wilson and Natalie Wilson of The Black & Missing Foundation

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