Kids’ Fluid Approach to Life, Italian Youth + Politics, Viewers’ Love for TV and More: International Insights Digest, March Edition

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Viacom’s latest consumer insights include global kids’ fluid approach to life, youth and politics in Italy, viewers’ love for TV, teens speaking out against injustice, and the decline of casual sex. 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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2018 Kids’ Choice Awards Orange Blimp Nominees Are Here – Start Voting Today

It’s slime time again. Nickelodeon has unveiled the nominees for this year’s Kids’ Choice Awards, the network’s premiere live event. Voting is open in select categories and will continue in a four-week wave.

The KCAs may be all about the kids, but there are some pretty groovy grown-ups nominated for honors. John Cena, pro wrestler and now Nickelodeon star in his own right, returns to host, while Nick star JoJo Siwa will perform live at the event. Beyonce, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Taylor Swift and Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot are in the running for orange blimps, along with many more big names.

Watch Cena talk all things KCAs:

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Nickelodeon Is Pumped for Partnerships: Vans Sneakers, Hasbro Games and More

On Saturday, Feb. 24, Nickelodeon and Vans kicked off Vans X SpongeBob, a glorious mash-up of vintage 90s skate style and old-school Nickelodeon cartoons. SpongeBob SquarePants first aired in 1999, and the show is still running today—yet thanks to Bikini Bottom’s underwater setting and a nautical, pastel color palette, Nickelodeon’s hit series has a definitive retro vibe.

Courtesy of Nickelodeon.

The fact that SpongeBob boasts nearly two decades of airtime (and counting) means the quirky sea sponge has a fan base ranging from adult millennials to youngsters growing up with the show today. Fortunately, this new collection offers sizes for toddlers.

Courtesy of Nickelodeon.

The design showcases iconic characters including the eponymous SpongeBob, his best friend Patrick Star and the vile Plankton splashed against canvass, on Vans’ classic slip-on and Sk8-Hi styles (plus apparel, accessories and skateboards). Take a look at the full collection here.

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Viacom Announces First Quarter 2018 Results, Accelerates Transformation Efforts

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom released its financial results for the first quarter of fiscal 2018 this morning, underscoring the significant progress being made to transform its business amid rapid industry change.

Aggressive moves to expand next-generation platforms and solutions, initiatives to grow beyond TV and film, the launch of a premium content network, strengthened relationships with distribution partners, and the demonstrable success of its Flagship Six strategy all position Viacom for potential growth in the second half of 2018.

“In the quarter, Viacom aggressively drove progress on our strategic plan, delivering improvements in our business and positioning the company for the future,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish. “Viacom’s most-watched portfolio of domestic cable brands grew viewership share in the quarter, led by our powerful flagship networks, which now includes Paramount Network – the biggest and most ambitious network rebrand in our history. Internationally, we continue to deliver double-digit top-line and bottom-line Media Networks gains while launching innovative new partnerships in growth territories around the world.

“Viacom has also made considerable progress in its push to accelerate consumption and monetization on next-generation platforms, achieving substantial growth in worldwide digital advertising revenues, expanding distribution on fast-growing virtual MVPD and mobile services, and ramping up resources and talent at Viacom Digital Studios. Additionally, since the end of the quarter, we continued to expand our digital capabilities with the acquisition of influence marketer WHOSAY and the world’s premier online video event, VidCon. In addition, our strategy to further diversify our core properties off-screen through live events, hospitality and consumer products continues to progress, with the much anticipated Broadway premiere of the SpongeBob SquarePants musical in the quarter, along with new initiatives across our portfolio.

“We remain deeply committed to maintaining strong financial discipline and delivering returns for our shareholders. In the quarter, Viacom continued to improve its leverage profile and we are on track to achieve $100 million in new cost savings in the current fiscal year, and hundreds of millions more in 2019.”

Here’s a closer look at what Viacom is doing to advance its strategic plan and transform the company in the year ahead:

Flagship Six networks anchor Viacom’s spot atop the basic cable universe

Led by its Flagship Six of MTVBETComedy CentralNickelodeonNick Jr. and Paramount Network (which launched after the quarter ended, replacing Spike in the U.S.), Viacom continued to stand at the top of the basic cable universe, holding the largest share of viewers in all key demos:

And the portfolio continued to grow: MTV primetime ratings (+14 percent) and share (+25 percent) both surged, BET recorded a second consecutive quarter of double-digit year-over-year ratings growth (+16 percent), Nick hit its 10th consecutive quarter as the top network among kids, and Comedy Central documented its third straight quarter of increased year-over-year audience share.

Viacom’s other core brands – VH1, TV Land and CMT – recorded year-over-year quarterly ratings and share growth. For VH1, this marked its 10th consecutive quarter of ratings growth, making it the only entertainment net across both cable and broadcast that can make this claim.

Complementing these growing ratings are strengthened affiliate relationships with Suddenlink and Charter, which should help further boost viewership and the advertising revenue that goes along with it.

Paramount Network launches Viacom Media Networks into the premium content space

Paramount Network rumbled to life last month, propelling Viacom Media Networks into the premium content realm and capitalizing on the deep storytelling tradition of Viacom’s iconic Paramount brand. Strong ratings immediately followed, first for Lip Sync Battle: Live Michael Jackson Celebration and then for the premiere of Waco starring Taylor Kitsch. Several more high-profile shows land over the coming months, including a Heathers reboot, American Woman with Alicia Silverstone, and Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner.

Viacom had already been invested in the creation of premium television content, however, under the umbrella of Paramount Television, a production studio seated under Paramount Pictures that tripled revenues in 2017. The studio’s robust content pipeline includes Hulu’s Catch-22, EPIX’s The Contender, TNT’s The Alienist (cable’s number one new drama series), Amazon’s Jack Ryan, and new seasons of USA Network’s Shooter, EPIX’s Berlin Station, and Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.

The turnaround of Paramount Pictures continues

Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos has assembled a new leadership team dedicated to igniting growth. The July release of the next Mission: Impossible film will act as the springboard for a 2019 slate that will include eight films co-branded with Viacom’s media networks. Major production deals with Hasbro, Skydance, and The Fast and the Furious producer Neal Moritz should further bolster a lineup that already includes Bumblebee, Gemini Man, and sequels to Top Gun and World War Z.

Viacom’s push into next-generation platforms accelerates

Yesterday, Viacom announced the acquisition of VidCon, turbocharging a next-generation digital platform strategy that also includes Viacom Digital Studios and recently acquired influence marketer WHOSAY.

This digital pivot has already yielded results, with global video consumption on Viacom’s sites, mobile apps and connected devices surging 38 percent year-over-year during the quarter. As Viacom Digital Studios ramps up to scale and begins distributing unique content across the company’s massive social footprint, Viacom anticipates a doubling of video views and significantly increased watch time on YouTube and Facebook this year.

Viacom will continue to move toward the center of consumers’ digital lives, both internationally – where the company secured a major mobile distribution deal with Telefónica in Latin America– and domestically, where a significant direct-to-consumer experience could be announced later this year.

Viacom’s live events business is growing rapidly

VidCon, which draws more than 30,000 attendees to its flagship Anaheim event and is in the beginning stages of international expansion, adds a powerful arrow to Viacom’s live-events quiver. Every flagship brand will host at least one major live event in the U.S. this year, including Comedy Central’s ClusterFest, which drew 40,000 fans in its inaugural run last year; SpongeBob the Musical, which opened to soaring reviews on Broadway; and The BET Experience, which will continue to attract tens of thousands of fans around the BET Awards in June.

International ad, affiliate and general revenue surge

Viacom International Media Networks continues to crank out steady growth: a 13 percent overall revenue jump, a 17 surge in advertising revenue, and 13 percent growth in affiliate revenues.*

Strong growth in Europe and the integration of Argentinian broadcaster Telefe contributed to these impressive numbers. The launch of Paramount+ in the Nordics, the debut of a free-to-air Spike network in Italy, and a restructuring of our jointly owned Viacom18 property in India should all contribute to further gains.

*All international revenue numbers are adjusted for a five percent favorable impact from foreign exchange

To see what Viacom will debut in the months ahead, scroll through the timeline below, or click here to view the full-screen version.

Kate Remsen Inspires a Greener Viacom With “Eco-Lodeon”

Orange is the new green at Nickelodeon—at least, according to Kate Remsen, Burbank-based project coordinator, avid environmentalist and founder of Viacom’s West Coast “Eco-Lodeon” initiatives.

Remsen came to Viacom in 2013 as a Comedy Central intern while studying film and television at Loyola Marymount University. After graduation, she began working as executive assistant to David Steinberg, the senior vice president of animation production at Nickelodeon. “I always wanted to work in entertainment,” said Remsen.

Viacom fulfilled her career goals. Unexpectedly, it became a venue to actualize her passion for environmental sustainability—something she might not have been able to do at other media companies.

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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

SpongeBob SquarePants Delights Critics in Broadway Debut

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Following an audience-wowing run in Chicago, Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants The Broadway Musical officially landed in New York City last week, greeted by captivated fans and an ocean’s worth of critical praise.

“Skeptics better tie themselves to the mast if they want to survive this tempest of effervescent candy-for-the-spirit,” writes Vulture’s Sara Holdren. “Even if you venture into the Palace feeling Squidward  -ish, it’s a truly gloomy soul who’ll be able to leave without mirroring the dopey grin with which the show’s absorbent yellow hero responds to his buddy’s existential angst…”

The Tina Landau-directed story, in brief: while the ever-more-fiercely trembling Mount Humungous threatens to bury Bikini Bottom beneath a tsunami of lava and ash, a number of subplots playfully expose the absurdity of contemporary real-world issues in the non-animated realm in which we all dwell. Sandy the squirrel faces land-animal xenophobia from her sea fellows. Plankton’s attempts to win business through hypnosis has echoes of an online fake-news sales job. “Tidal warming” threatens to upend daily life.

With music from an all-star jukebox’s worth of musicians, a riotous set and costumes perfectly channeling the cartoon’s manic aesthetic, and a cast preternaturally suited to their undersea identities, the show is a complete work, tuned both to its obvious target audience of children and to theatergoers entranced by the spectacle of big-time Broadway productions.

Critics, many of whom expressed only a vague familiarity with the show prior to stepping into the Palace theater, were delighted. Here’s a sampling of what they liked:

The set design

Twenty years in, SpongeBob fans are well acquainted with the whimsical animated set pieces that constitute Bikini Bottom. But even long-time observers will be delighted by the maritime decor, a boldly colored and meticulously curated bazaar of pool noodles, floaty-devices, and the discarded effluvia of the consumerist human world above – shopping carts, umbrellas, surfboards and more.

“[Set designer]  David Zinn, a master designer, seems to have been fed an herb meal before devising the set and costumes that transform the noble old Palace into a trippy mindf!ck that’s equal parts Rube Goldberg and Electric Circus,” writes Deadline’s Jeremy Gerard. “I doubt there are any colors on view that exist in nature, or that you or I have seen since black light met ingested pholiotina cyanopus.”

Sesley Taylor as Sheldon Plankton (center) and company. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2017.

The costumes

Bikini Bottom is crowded with characters of odd shape and dimension, and Zinn, who in addition to set designer is also the show’s costume designer, does not try to interpret this cartoon fantasyland literally. Instead, the actors’ decidedly human-proportioned outfits match their character’s familiar color palette, evoking their essence while individual performances complete the profile.

“The production smartly shuns prosthetics to match the characters’ looks from the animated series. Instead, undersea denizens are given human form but retain telltale traits,” writes Joe Dziemianowicz in The New York Daily News. “It’s a smart decision that broadens accessibility — fans and non-fans, adults and kids.”

Pictured: The company of SpongeBob SquarePants. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2017

The music

SpongeBob’s Broadway debut packs an outsized catalogue of that key element to so many big-time stage productions: music. The play brims with songs – many of them originals created for this production – by a deep well of musicians: Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alex Ebert, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, T.I., David Bowie, Tom Kenny and Andy Paley.

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Viacom Global Insights, December Edition: TV’s Continued Importance, Kids’ Passion Points and More

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Viacom’s latest consumer insights from around the world include TV’s continued importance, kids’ passion points, how the internet fosters unity, Filipino kids’ purchase influence, and happiness in Asia-Pacific countries. As always, you can read these and all our stories in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.

Our latest study on global TV habits finds that in viewers’ lives, TV is as essential as ever.
A recent project looks at today’s top passion points among kids in 30 countries.
A new infographic reveals stats on how the internet is opening people’s minds and inspiring them to make the world a better place.
Filipino kids are more likely to live with grandparents and help out other relatives, broadening their influence over family decisions.
People are happier and less focused on material success in Asia-Pacific countries than 5 years ago, according to a recent study.

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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